“What you see is what you get” – this simple phrase could be used to describe the paintings from the “Orange” series by Cologne-based painter Gudrun Klebeck. The viewer gets what he sees at a first, fleeting glance: slightly diffused orange surfaces with collaged, clearly delimited, graphic cutouts, mostly in black and white.
But as so often in life, a fleeting glance is not enough to grasp the essence of things. Through their sheer presence, these works invite us to take a closer look, because unconsciously the viewer realizes that a small but essential detail is inconsistent with the collage.
There is no sublimity, no second level, there is no leap from the painted surface into the three-dimensionality of a layering, as it must occur – no matter how tiny – in every glued/laid-on collage. Thus, we are not dealing with collages – rather with Combine Paintings in the sense of montages. Gudrun Klebeck cuts out segments from the painted canvases and replaces them with digitally printed fabric, which she sews on the back. We see plane ‘inlays’ or implants. In each case, the print is based on photographs digitally processed by the artist.
On the same level – so to speak at eye level – a concentrated and slowly developed and individually tempered painting, which is made up of many multicoloured, thinly applied acrylic glazes and which in total results in a colour tone from the spectrum “orange”, meets a print which is alienated from the original motif and which is to a certain extent discoloured in favour of contrast.
These two elements are related to each other, they interact. The artist attaches great importance to a strong contrast of the means used; she has clearly conceived and composed their inner relationship from a formal point of view and varied them in the various works of the series. The separation of structure (print) and colour (painting) allows her to create her own harmonious choreography of images.
Thus, Gudrun Klebeck expands painting through her printed incorporations. Frequently, two added elements can be found on the one-part works as well as on the double pictures, overlapping in opposite directions on the right and left of the picture edges, or leaning towards each other from two sides – and sometimes with parallel lines in the cut as well as using very similarly shaped cuts. These can be seen as the moment of a stopped movement that follows a clear direction.
A calm application of paint, leaning towards the closed surface, often surrounds the vertical inserts – occasionally upholstered – that in some works form a narrow connection between the two parts of a diptych. An orange space, made vibrant by underglaze, usually envelops the acute-angled forms. If one considers the inserted pieces as positives, the concept of the negative form inevitably arises for the painted substance, which here often approaches mirrored or actual axial symmetry – an aspect that has always been connected with the diptych as a pictorial genre. The relationship of the various surfaces to one another, the aforementioned play with symmetry, is just as well thought out and selected as the format decisions in general. These are repeatedly reconsidered and, if necessary, also changed during the creative process. The variability of the formats of the entire series of pieces results from this context.
Gudrun Klebeck has titled them “Orange”, exploring a color that was not previously in her focus. Each individual work shows a different view of the coloring, which we subsume under the term orange, but which – as the artist shows us – is obviously diverse in its appearance. The viewer is confronted with different colored pictures that are all orange – or with orange pictures that are all different colors!
The artist plays with ambiguity. The photo of the original object is widely alienated and ambiguous through cropping and reduction. It cannot be said with certainty what is depicted. A grained, porous or punched surface that is curved; that much is revealed through the distribution of light. Skin? Leather? A metallic object? The surface of a planet? Or, as the titles suggest, images of the orange fruit itself? The manifold associations are detached from the concrete object. The charm of these works lies in their reduction and modulation.
With her formally well thought-out approach, Gudrun Klebeck makes an interesting contribution to the current discourse on painting.