Heads and Vessels

Heinz-Martin Weigand

Udo Nöger’s works are narratives describing the interior; things that lie beneath the surface. The immediate impact of the surface is one of visual imagery, vessels in a far sense inhabit the paint surface; vessels and heads, connecting lines, cells, nervepaths. The transparent white canvas receives these symbols in a floating condition. In those parts, where due to the oil the canvas gets even more transparent, it lets the symbols dance and float instead of containing them. The abstract compositions arise like a universal brain that holds all knowledge of mankind, but also as a memory of sensory impressions, of smells and emotions. The light-transparent canvas allows the viewer to look directly at the visual images and then inside, beneath the surface. As the canvas has been worked on from the backside, some areas show the vulnerable inside. The filigree lines move, transporting a fluid of unknown composition and consistency, but they make it perfectly clear that its connecting and transporting quality is indispensable and necessary. The contents and the disconnections of the vessels and lines form irregular spots and perforations. Nöger himself calls these spots perforations bees. They symbolize “rich ease”, the ideal connection of power and agile mobility. In earlier works the figuration was often inspired by the mask or totem cult. In new works, on first sight, one searches in vain for that figuration. With the expectation of the emergence of these images one lets oneself in for the “visual game”, structures appear like vexier pictures, that make us believe to see figures and heads. Nevertheless this assumption is one that was not intended. The new works simply determine another form of vessel that embraces (grasps) the other ones. From the outside, to the inside, to the innermost part, to...

Date 2007


John Goodman

Udo Nöger’s forms-mostly heads and vessels-possess a spontaneous, informal elegance that seems dashed off but in fact constitutes a swift phenomenological reading of the spiritual. His most recent work incorporates translucent materials, which emphasize the artist’s ongoing interest in light and its manifestations. Often in Nöger’s art light appears to enter into the painting, illuminating the usually transparent forms and then returning to the ambient space that is its source. The paintings composed of three thin layers of canvas, which trap the light so as to transform it and send it on its way, back into the world. In this way, the light in the painting feels as though it is emanating from the forms themselves. Seen this way, Nöger draws and entraps luminosity not only for the practical purpose of highlighting his compositions but also for the abstract rendering of light as a material--a hugely difficult, and more than likely a German, objective. In Nöger’s case, this transformation of an abstract entity into sensuous terms feels German in both a philosophical and a formal sense. His art turns on the paradox that something as disembodied as light can be represented physically, so that our conception of it literally has something to hold. American artist such as James Turrell and Robert Irwin have worked on the problem of light and its manifestation. However, they turn outward, toward environments that either externalize or contain the conflict between matters spiritual and worldly. Nöger is not interested as these artists are in installing an outside world reflective of inner radiance. Instead, he creates images that mediate light, placing his forms between his source of illumination and his internal state. As a result, his art owes its considerable effectiveness to a middle ground, in which the forms become a place of exchange for states of internal and external luminosity. In Nöger’s New over Old Heads (1997), the artist has placed four new heads--oval-shaped holes--over four old ones, which take the form of circles, three of them with horizontal strips and one with a vertical. This is the extent of the composition. Its engaging simplicity would seem to argue against a complex assessment, but with time the primitive forms take on metaphorical significance; it may be, for example, that the bars in the old heads symbolize closed perception, while the light passing through the new heads stands for spiritual awareness. As is most often the case in Nöger’s art, the interpretation inevitably rests on a figurative, rather than literal, understanding of the forms involved. Vessel (1997) consists of a surpassingly simple shape: a long thin boat-shaped form, placed horizontally in the bottom third of the painting. Nöger’s bare form is a receiver of light’s energy; it also functions as a physical object meant to transform radiance into a slightly less disembodied condition. The title of another piece, Into My Heads (1997), a painting of four featureless, vertically aligned ovals, suggests an intellectual state of receivership; perhaps the heads are filled with a luminosity that will guild, or enlighten, the hand that created them. Nöger’s achievement is to find an idiom emblematic of metaphysical discourse-one in which heads and vessels are lit from within. This vocabulary is of course a metaphor for spiritual intelligence; however, we must not forget it is also an actual image. Nöger’s ability to describe an abstract content in physical terms makes him an inspired interpreter of spiritual matters.

Date 2007


© 2010 bill lowe gallery  |  site by visualiti