Art

Diana d’aren­berg Par­manand meets cel­e­brated Ger­man artist Neo Rauch, a pain­ter who will lure you into his fan­tas­ti­cal world of night­mares and dream­scapes

Hong Kong Tatler - - Contents -

Cel­e­brated Ger­man artist Neo Rauch lures view­ers into a fan­tas­ti­cal world of night­mares and dream­scapes

or three decades, Ger­man artist Neo Rauch has been one of the lead­ing fig­u­ra­tive pain­ters of his gen­er­a­tion, his works win­dows into a strange world. It’s a world that op­er­ates ac­cord­ing to its own laws, a world that is at once fa­mil­iar with its bu­colic scenery and some­times in­dus­trial land­scapes, and yet com­pletely alien and alien­at­ing. Con­ven­tions of paint­ing are dis­re­garded. Fig­ures ap­pear dis­em­bod­ied and dis­pro­por­tion­ate in size to one another, and the rules of per­spec­tive and pro­por­tion are dis­carded. The paint­ings look like they are made up of frag­ments, col­lages of im­ages plucked from sto­ry­books and the imag­i­na­tion. It re­sults in an un­set­tling at­mos­phere, dense with drama and dis­cord.

Rauch was born in 1960 in Leipzig in what was then East Ger­many. He was brought up by his grand­par­ents from the age of four weeks af­ter his mother and fa­ther were killed in a train ac­ci­dent. Soviet-era Liepzig gave Rauch, who still lives in the city, a firm ground­ing in the fig­u­ra­tive so­cial-re­al­ist art that de­fined the com­mu­nist aes­thetic and which, to an ex­tent, also de­fines his own work. He stud­ied at the Leipzig Academy of Vis­ual Arts and later worked at the Leipziger Academy in the ’90s as a master’s stu­dent un­der in­flu­en­tial Leipzig School pain­ters Arno Rink and Sighard Gille.

Although Rauch says that works by Balthus, Fran­cis Ba­con and Giotto had “a fun­da­men­tally sta­bil­is­ing ef­fect on his for­mal prac­tice” and “saved” him from “wan­der­ing off into main­stream paint­ing,” it is im­pos­si­ble not to pon­der how this fu­sion of East and West Europe, of two dif­fer­ent value sys­tems (if not two dif­fer­ent worlds) that the artist ex­pe­ri­enced, come into play in his work. Un­like fel­low East Ger­man artists Ger­hard Richter and Sig­mar Polke, who es­chewed any link to so­cial-re­al­ist tra­di­tions and fig­u­ra­tion, Rauch em­braced the in­flu­ences of East Ger­many. Blend­ing these with Western art in­flu­ences, he paved the way for the resur­gence of fig­u­ra­tive paint­ing.

The mix of in­flu­ences and the merg­ing of past and present, the per­sonal and the po­lit­i­cal, re­sult in a sin­gu­lar voice and vi­sion in paint­ing that has de­fied trends and seen Rauch scale the heights of the con­tem­po­rary art mar­ket. Af­ter a 1999 Ar­mory Show pre­sen­ta­tion by Ber­lin gallery Ei­gen + Art cat­a­pulted his work into the in­ter­na­tional spotlight, Rauch en­joyed New

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