Artists: Yudi Noor, Peter Sandbichler
The mediality of colour plays a constitutive role in the work of both Yudi Noor and Peter Sandbichler. The plane of aesthetic cross references in preloaded key: colour is however determined less by formal analogy – through the use of the colour magenta – than by the specifics and differences of the ontological status of colour as well as its respective semanticisation. While the mediality of colour provides the unifying element, each artist also investigates the use of colour in relation to form on the one hand, and the ways in which it performs in a pictorial sense on the other. Both artists move within the field of tension between everyday aesthetics and the symbolic code system of art. Applied forms – forms determined either by their potential (Sandbichler) or historic usage (Noor) – are strategically staged within the context of art in order to provoke aesthetic and semantic shifts. In these processes of translation from the object to the symbolic, from aesthetics to semiotics, pressing questions are raised as to how these forms are used and their socio-political and socio-aesthetic implications.
Yuri Noor’s works deal with the transference of everyday objects, with their arrival and continuity, as well as with their disappearance. And yet his aesthetic arrangements and stagings do not lead us back into the past, to the ‘genesis’ and origins of his objects. Instead, they examine the mutual contextualisation of present and past.(1)Noor does not reflect so much on the history of objects per se as on the history of their political, economic and cultural appropriation. Don’t think twice it’s a fake is the staging of a gateway taken from the working quarters of the eighteenth-century Indonesian royal palace complex in Yogakarta. The structure, consisting of ornately decorative carved wooden panels connected by crossbeams to form a frame, is transported into the profane present, stripped of its aura through Noor’s decisive intervention in its colour – the painting over of the entire frame in magenta. The referential significance of the object appears displaced, disrupted even.
Viewed from architectonic and sculptural standpoints, the frame can be described both as a spatial divider and as a potential threshold. However, the gateway is not so much a figure of the opposition between inside and outside as it is between here and there, since its is now capable of referring us not only to another place, but also to another time. It constitutes a focal point that makes it possible to imagine simultaneity between the temporally disparate. If we go beyond this initial spatial and sculptural interpretation, the gateway becomes doubly iconicised through Noor’s chromatic intervention. On the one hand, the paint superposes the underlying, organic wooden structure, erasing the patina of the historic object and transforming it into an image-bearer. On the other hand, if one reads the painting-over in graphic, painting terms, it clearly marks out the gateway as the quadratic frame of a picture. In this reading, the empty central space advances to a field of activity for the observer’s gaze, a screen for potential connotations and projections. Although in fact a sculpture, the work achieves the ontological status of a painting in this way. Through this iconicisation, the gateway appears less of a concrete historical object, referring to a particular cultural and historical context; instead, it is more of a simulacrum, an iconic symbol of itself. It can be read as a cipher of otherness, the symbolic status of which is called into question and presented for discussion through Noor’s process of pictorialisation. The empty frame functions here as a semantic placeholder, an exemplary representation of projections of the other – encoded as a picture and therefore made culturally available.
Seen through this lens of alterity that challenges the observer to question the subjective viewpoint as a pictorial construction based on cultural conventions, any ‘immediate’ perception of the other per se turns out to be encrypted on multiple levels. Nevertheless, in the combination and concentration of culturally formed meanings and viewpoints, Yuri Noor does not attempt to dig up encrusted or submerged ‘truths’ about the object. Instead, he renders legible the ideologies and the consciousness that construct such competing realities. In the complexity of possible references and connotations, the gateway proves itself to be a fragment, culturally encoded in various ways. It has no clearly definable location and thus dissolves the category of the original. Instead, the gateway can be read as a complex interplay of visual codes, discourse and power structures. It does not represent an internal connection with the past; it appears much more to be a palimpsest of contradictory narratives, cultural appropriations and transcriptions. Don’t think twice it’s a fake would thus be an invitation to investigate the multiple cultural encryptions of the object, instead of being taken in by the time-honoured illusion that there is such a thing as an original. In so doing we do not merely broach the issue of how otherness is represented, but also call into question the ways in which the observer appropriates and uses images of the other, uncovering their instrumentalisation and the vested interests and ideologies that underlie them.
Whereas Noor’s colour encryption initiates a transition from object to symbolic status, making perceptible the semiotic and socio-aesthetic implications of the object itself, for Peter Sandbichler, colour is a non-referential and abstract phenomenological event. Sandbichler investigates the field of aesthetic potential in which the object appears structurally modulated and transcended through the mediality of colour.
The untitled frieze is based on a formal principle of variable modules. Peter Sandbichler unites hyperbolic and parabolic epoxy resin modules within a wall quadrant into a structural system, wherein the surface areas of the individual modules correspond proportionally to the surface area of the whole. The modules are organised freely but not arbitrarily. This principle of aleatoricism and variability, a constant in Sandbichler’s aesthetic strategy, also represents an invitation to the potential ‘user’. The work’s internal aesthetic order becomes a space for the potential of free association. The character of this carefully arranged, self-contained entity seems permeable and variable. In spite of the clearcut boundaries of its aesthetic field of activity, the structural system nevertheless demonstrates its potential for extension beyond the ‘bounds’ of the ‘picture’. The quadrant is like an extract from a structural continuum, an imaginary and perpetually extendable principal that refers in the final instance to the “incommensurably limitless potential of space itself”.(2)
A periodic structure of light and shadow results from the arrangement of modular volumina. Viewed from a certain distance, it condenses to an iconic level, and makes non-relational structures visible in the form of repetitive patterns. Within the quadrant, object and pictorial-formalistic meaning unite. The contrasting force fields that result from the composition of the colour planes interfere with the light/shadow structure of the spatial modules, which seems comparatively stable. The aesthetic illusion begins to detach itself from the form that engenders it. The structural system appears partially illuminated, or perhaps even to shine with its own light, and yet the ‘location’ of the colours is difficult to determine. The individual colour planes, fluorescent magenta, orange and red, seem to float. The transcendent chromatic effect of Sandbichler’s modules results from the combination of transparency and fluorescence. The modules, formed of polyester poured in superimposed layers, have been rendered translucent by embedded glass fibres. The underlying wall, covered over with fluorescent colour fields, constitutes the source for the peripheral coloured ‘lighting’. Colour here becomes a phenomenon that does not adhere to the object. In Sandbichler’s frieze, the immateriality of light and colour, and colour itself, is experienced as an agency that permeates form and transcends the object.
The ontological status of colours is not clearly defined in Sandbichler’s work. Colours vary between appearance and reality, are self-evident and at the same time constitutive of the image-space. Not just determinate surface areas, they seem also to refer to spatial layers, to a before and a behind. This leads to an alternation of fore- and rear-ground pictorial layers, an overlapping of near and far. Due to interference phenomena between the dynamic structure of the areas of colour and the structure of the shadow formations, the object-like form successively appears to drift off, even to dissolve. In Sandbichler’s work, materiality and immateriality, appearance and reality form an indissoluble connection. The perceived impression, the aesthetic event synthesised in the eye of the beholder, combined with the work’s empirical givens generate a field of tension that constantly challenges the observer to examine his own perceptions.
For both Noor and Sandbichler, colour is able to refer to something beyond the material status of the carrier object and to transcend its object status. In Noor’s work, colour semoticises, modulating the cultural, historical reference of the carrier object and highlighting an intentional shift of context. In Sandbichler’s, the carrier object is dissolved by his use of colour as a dynamic and self-emancipating spatial image stratum. In end effect, both works call into question, not so much the ontological status of image or object, as our modes of seeing: semiotic reference (Noor) and modalities of perception (Sandbichler). Beyond the idea of the self-evidence of form and colour, both artists aim at a reshuffling of perception, at the place between what is and what appears to be.
(1)See Linda Williams, Spiegel ohne Gedächtnisse, in Eva Hohenberger, Judith Keilbach (eds), Die Gegenwart der Vergangenheit, Berlin: Vorwerk 8 2003, p. 3.
(2)Max Imdahl, Raumplastik M. I., in Heinz Liesbrock (ed), Die Unersetzbarkeit des Bildes, Düsseldorf: Richter 1996, p. 149.