Sunday, May 23

"Shadowy Existence in the Studio"

Neo Rauch (via Art Info)
The most valuable art books in my studio become the ones with the most words in them. Which is funny because they're usually purchased for the pictures. I get infatuated with someone's work and the monograph becomes a way to possess it or learn it. The artist conversations inside recreate the existence of the work for me long after I first see it.

There is a great studio chat between Wolfgang Buscher and Neo Rauch in the book, Neo Rauch: Schilfland Works on Paper. There is also another interview with Ellen Alpsten. They discuss the hidden prolific drawing practice of a painter who already is known for being "uncommonly productive".

Drawing by Neo Rauch
I recently began to recognize gaps and strengths in my own preparatory process and think Rauch's use of his drawings, from Schilfland, is interesting:
These things here are not preparatory drawings for pictures in the academic sense. They lead a kind of shadowy existence in the studio. There's a kind of darting around and crawling about them that's almost insect-like. They're things that simply come about in passing and then astonish even me when I look at them...
 Rauch says he does not necessarily do preparatory studies, but needs to start large canvases with at least "mental images". He claims it has something to do with "worrying about spoiling the adventure by taming the figure before struggling with it."

Drawing by Neo Rauch
Drawing by Neo Rauch
And I often feel the same way. Attempting a study of a figure for a larger painting often just deadens the imagery. It's mostly that I will struggle with the imagery on the canvas and it be right, or not. I often draw figures in gestures reminiscent of my paintings, but this is outside the studio.

I like how Rauch's "production process" has evolved to include these drawings that clearly have the same dream-like and surreal imagery, but don't necessarily need to be anything final - or anything period. The book includes dozens of these drawings done with pen, graphite, marker and paint. Some are more characture studies - his usual pudgy and muddy faces blankly looking. Or others are compositions more designed - about a color quality or shape. But it's the act of drawing that helps his entire process.

For an artist like Neo Rauch, who is identified so crisply by these enormous paintings and nothing more - it's really satisfying as an artist to see part of his erroneous process. I can't even say his drawings always amount to much as themselves (although they still are exciting).

I don't even own this book, but have others of his. It's just that this certain conversation, about the idea of making things in your studio that have no consequence, in order to facilitate serious images is one that I can learn from. I guess that is how Neo Rauch has developed his paintings to appear so haphazard but deliberate - so incredibly painted but cavalier.


  1. I just heard of him last week, when someone pointed out that there's an anthology of poetry based on his paintings.

  2. that's interesting. where? I've read that he has strange things hanging around his handguns. But he bikes to his studio 9-5 and has a nuclear family lifestyle.