Detail-2-photographer-Bernd-BorchardtTHOMAS RENTMEISTER – CONSIDERING THE MATTER

24.09. – 12.10.2014.

Opening on Wednesday, September 24th 2014 at 7.30 pm

 Gallery Bačva
Trg žrtava fašizma 16
10000 Zagreb

Photograph by Bernd Borchardt


(Materiality and Play in the Work of Thomas Rentmeister)

The essence of Thomas Rentmeister’s work is the imagination, materiality and play. Man, as Johann Huizinga’s famous book long ago observed, is by his culture forming nature homo ludens (‘man the player’), and as a result over time has become a master manipulator of the material world. It is clear that playing offers an accumulation of practices that leads through repetition to an extension of new forms of originality and innovation. Hence the title of this exhibition is intended to be simultaneously playful and intellectual, that is to say the artist Thomas Rentmeister considers his use of materials both as tactile resources and as food for thought. While the materials of his artistic practice are invariably mass-produced and easily accessible or familiar to the viewer, they nonetheless form a unique vocabulary of personal transformation. In and through an imaginative and sensory compilation of expressive material affects that Rentmeister shapes an admixture of minimalist referent and post-minimal disequilibrium. As a result he is able to invest his works with a unique sense of wit and wistfulness: that is he reveals a double-edged sense of formal propriety through his compositional sculpture-making practice while evoking at the same time highly textured informal feelings of vague or regretful longing.

In “Considering the Matter’ the works touch upon several different aspects of the artist’s sculptural and pictorial practices. An accumulation of racks removed from refrigerators are the stacked basis of a minimalist sculpture—since they share the affinities of industrial production—but it is an aesthetic that is also simultaneously undermined by pictorial asymmetries made evident in their stacking. A mop is propped against a wall connoting the utility of an exhibition space that so often presents itself as a creative or metaphorical site of aesthetic escape. The mop stands not only for an old-fashioned form of practical day-to-day utility, but also perhaps for the secret anthropomorphic continuities of a hidden human presence. It is also no doubt intentionally reminiscent of a familiar childhood play object (a horse of the imagination), of bed knobs and broomsticks, or the fantasized witch-like associations of the fairy tale. The viewer will find many nostalgic and open-ended associations are common to this artist’s sculptural works. In certain instances this can be seen as an expression of the bringing together distant realities, and as a result there is sometimes (not always intentionally so) a touch of Surrealism evident in Rentmeister’s art works. A wall work is composed of coloured folders derived from the artist’s student years and from other biographical sources. A folder of his landlord’s contract among others, with their frequently grease stained personally relatable materials. In this respect the work has been formalised into a grid, the asymmetries of an artistic self-portrait transformed into the imposed symmetry of a wall work minimalist object.

The central space’s freestanding sculptures also pick up on the theme of play and childhood. The four-storey sculpture is an admixture and metaphoric shelf and child’s bunk bed, a work that is intentionally made disproportionate in terms of scale, height and materials. The addition of laundry to the bunk shelves emphasis its nocturnal associations of sleep and rest. However, the sharp angles of the ends of the bolted structure connote the cross angularities of the work conceived for a Church installation project in Cologne, where it will be shown after its first appearance as part of the Zagreb project. The last work is made up of old re-used fridges, a bucket of ‘baby’s bum’ Penaten cream, wood and Styrofoam, and might be considered as a large-scale three-dimensional sketch of sorts. It is an extension of the long established vocabulary of re-used fridges in Rentmeister installations. The artist often uses these materials as part of a pictorial and three-dimensional discourse of unity and fragmentation, which is to say minimalist sculptural objects literally greased and/or held together by ephemeral materials. The frequent use of Penaten cream or Nutella by the artist cuts across all the formal high-minded tendencies of the minimalist discourse. In this sense play and childhood associated materials are often the means of affective displacement and realisation. This stresses not only the emotional import of Rentmeister’s sculptures and installations, but just as importantly foregrounds at all times the immediacy of play and experiment that the artist practices within his studio. Hence ‘Considering the Matter’ gives access not only to the psyche of what is seen but infers the hidden visible of Rentmeister’s artistic practice in the studio at the same time. For as Nietzsche long ago observed in his famous text Human All Too Human (1878), while speaking of the truly creative mind….

“…It is the sign of a superior culture consciously to retain certain phases of development which lesser men live through almost without thinking and then wipe from the tablet of their soul, and to draft a faithful picture of it…it is the ability to rapidly reconstruct such systems of ideas and sensations on any given occasion, as for example the impression of a temple on the basis of a few pillars and pieces of wall that chance to remain standing…A Segment of our self as artistic object (aph. 274)

This sense of ‘hankering in childhood’ as the German thinker elsewhere calls it, is the avenue to a greater emotional and expressive insight brought about by play. In childhood play is a spontaneous necessity, whereas in adult life it emerges as the need that must be distilled and thought through and continuously exercised. The installation called ‘Considering the Matter’ at HDLU therefore affirms both that the role and necessity of play are central to the daily conditions of an active artistic life and living practice.       

  Mark Gisbourne

 “Here we have at once a very important point: even in its simplest form on the animal level, play is more than a mere physiological phenomenon or a psychological reflex. It goes beyond the confines of the purely physical or purely biological activity. It is a significant function—that is to say, there is some sense to it.” Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture (1950) Boston, The Beacon Press, 1955, p.1

The exhibition is financially supported by the City Office for culture, Education and Sports Zagreb and by TheMinistry of Culture of the Republic Croatia.

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