torsten ruehle
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2015 Berlin / Stilles Wasser / Katharina Maria Raab

2014 Greifswald / COLOR / Galerie Schwarz

2013 Mönchengladbach / Süden / Galerie Börgmann

        Berlin / COLOR / Superposition       

2012 New York / Minimal / Sodi Studios

2011 Berlin / narkose / Galerie Hilgemanns
        Köln / lucky cat / Sprungturm

        Greifswald / kompressor / Galerie Schwarz

2010 Amsterdam / 2x2 / Galerie Vriend van Bavik

        Berlin / neue räume / Galerie Hilgemann

2009 Amsterdam / filter / 2x2projects
2008 Berlin / blue velvet / Galerie Hilgemann
        Greifswald / schmelz / Galerie Schwarz
2007 Mannheim / butterfly caught / Galerie Kasten
2006 Berlin / stereochrom / Galerie Denninger
        Dresden / stereo / blitzgalerie
2005 Dresden / spezials / galerie oran
2004 Berlin / neu / Backfabrik
2003 Dresden / strom / galerie oran
2002 Dresden / nackte tatsachen / galerie oran
        Florence / torsten ruehle / zoe
2001 Dresden / torsten ruehle / galerie oran


Life's a Dream: Benign Spaces of Lyrical Life and Utopian Remembrance
(The Paintings of Torsten Ruehle)

by Mark Gisbourne

Our lips shouldn't touch
Move over darling
I like it too much
Move over darling
That gleam in your eyes is no big surprise anymore
Cos you fooled me beforei

Doris Day 'Move Over Darling' (1963)


Often the paintings of interiors made by Torsten Ruehle evoke a paradoxical

response in the viewer. In the first instance they are filled with a sense of a

seeming lyrical harmony, where there is a calming iconography within the

language of suburban international modernism and its erstwhile 'life made

easy' of benign consumption. But from a second point of view there is a clear

feeling of visual disturbance, a rupture has taken place, and what was an

initial sense of transparency becomes increasingly opaque both visually and

metaphorically. As if to restate matters for the painter Ruehle, there is

simultaneously clarity and ambiguous uncertainty that pervades and quite

deliberately unnerves the immediate viewing experience of this artist's

paintings. The use of a pictorial metaphor of a screening - or deliberate

masking - informs the initial optical character of Ruehle's paintings at one

level, while at the same time it further mitigates and exposes their actual

material processes of production on the other. Thus what appears

harmonious conceals a sense of unresolved inner dissonance. The

relationship between drawing as line - as distinct from the drawn as simple

composition - is very important to Torsten Ruehle. In preparing the surface

composition detailed line elements are set out and positioned, there follows

a semi-opaque masking process as a gesso-ed ground or screen is applied

and brushed over the original motifs. Thereafter strong singular black

pigment-pen lines are drawn around objects and characters that are

deliberately intended to equate with visual artifice, the illusory artifice of

Ruehle's paintings as their expressed contents. If as Gertrude Stein

humorously observed 'there are no straight lines in nature', then Ruehle's

art just as readily re-asserts that his paintings and black lines (straight or

otherwise) are not to be of nature but transpositions of a deliberately

imagined and constructed world. In either case as Hegel long ago asserted

art is the servant of artifice that triumphs over and above the transpositions

of scenes of nature. And, traditionally like most German painters Ruehle is

decidedly a maker of images clearly intended from the outset to be seen as

paintings, and not as it were poetic parallels or challenges to the natural

world. Though it may be just as evident that the artist Ruehle intentionally

represents material aspects of the world common to the recent history of

modernism. The strategic condition of this artist's sense of configuration is

therefore to make line contain and expose, and that German art with its rich

graphic tradition has ever been one that has foreground-ed the use of

linearity. Or, to quote Klee, 'take a line for a walk'. (...)

As in those cases with the inclusion of human figures like Outland Empire

(2008), and the large painting called Gravity (2007), they take the form of

spectral entities in ghosting spaces. When initially drawn in some detail in

coloured pencil the figures and objects are often highly finished. It is a finish

that is then literally masked or over-painted by the subsequent opaque

screening of white paint, and gives the effect somewhat as if a Renaissance

velo or veil has been placed in front of the image contents. The contour lines

that are then superimposed on the opaque screen over the core subject,

creating the effect of a free form contour stylisation. A whole variety of

different perspective viewpoints are used, and in Gravity Ruehle adopts an

aerial viewpoint, while in Outland Empire it is a raised centre field viewpoint.

In both instances the female figures lounge haplessly on their would-be

designer furniture, rather undermining the ergonomic design principles on

which many of their functional qualities claimed to have been based. The

settings are girls 'pyjama' or 'stopover' parties typical of the huge teenage

female culture that was emerging in the 'baby boomer years' of the 1950s

and 60s in America. The sense of artifice is reinforced by strained use of

bleached electric lighting in these interiors. And, since most of the Neutra

architecture was built on the open planning principle and favoured natural

lighting systems, we could argue that this is also part of the intended

perversity that Ruehle has adopted to deliberately undermine the lifestyle

feigned by these faded utopias. Faded, perhaps, like the many period

photographic images that the artist has inevitably sought and used as the

main source materials in these paintings. If photography provides a

provisional source for Ruehle's paintings, the use of film and filmography is

surely far moresignificant, and allied to that we also find indirect references

to an earlier twentieth ncentury tradition of American painting. (...)

Film as both scenario and setting is increasingly important to Ruehle, and

film provides both the space and propensity for the subtlety hidden notions

of the avant garde and kitsch I have already alluded to. The latter being

the force that undermines any notion of there being the possibility of a

plausible 'utopian modernism'. In Blue Velvet the heroine says to the lead

character 'I can't figure out if you're a detective or a pervert?' The point to

be made, beyond its facile simplicity as a statement, however, is that the

collaged world of film (cut and edit) provides a far better fluid paradigm to

understand the modern world than the lost illusions of high modernism's

consumer utopia. In the diptych that Ruehle simply calls Pilgrimage (2008),

the sentimental consumer relativism that typifies our age is made clear. On

the left a kitsch repository of statues of 'Our Lady of Fatima, of Lourdes, of

Guadeloupe' and no doubt numerous other places, while on the right is a

kitsch world of dogs and cats as family pets. I suppose given the choice today

of God or your pets it's a pretty close run thing as regards pretensions to the

spiritual and/or sentimental animal attachments. It is this very ambiguity and

questioning dissonance that makes Torsten Ruehle's paintings so interesting.

The persistent references to 'control' by Ruehle, are to be read intentionally

as a form of deliberate irony. The Socratic convention of irony is to use

precisely the oppositional words to what the meaning actually intends.

Modernism's complete failure and ongoing self-delusion of a perfectible

utopian lifestyle is thus fully exposed. (...) This said, it seems a further

ambiguity that Torsten Ruehle also has such a strong affection for modernist

architecture and objects, while at the same time undermining them through

his use of an internal critique. Perhaps, like the sentimental lyrics of Doris

Day's song 'Move over darling', we find "that gleam in your eyes is no big

surprise anymore. Cos you fooled me before." Today the past dissolved in the

present is the coinage of contemporary artistic painting practices, it flows from

the former divisions of East and West, processes that are still in the midst of

finding a new and hopefully unique sense of historical equilibrium.


excerpt from TORSTEN RUEHLE: FILTER; catalogue, 2009






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