Thomas Rehbein


21 Oct - 23 Dec 2016

Thomas Rehbein Galerie is proud to present four internationally acclaimed artistic positions in
contemporary painting. In the digital age, painting disperses into a variety of media, becoming a vague
metaphor. Approaches by Gerard Hemsworth (GB), David Reed (USA), Olav Christopher Jenssen (N), and
Peter Tollens (D), however, reveal a determined conversion to the manual reality of painting: applying
colour to create a surface. Aiming to seek out new artistic forms of expression, the act of painting is
performed on the basis of current discourses on painting that question this traditional medium in the
context of new image making techniques. Common to all four positions is the reflection on painting
during which different aspects and approaches take shape.
PETER TOLLENS examines the relationship of colour and pictorial ground, using the canvas’s depth to
counterbalance a flat surface and enhance the painting’s spatial expansion. First applying an undercoat
consisting of egg tempera, the artist then adds layers of oil-paint in short, prominent brush strokes,
bestowing the painting’s surface with rhythm until the top layer finally exudes a monochrome colour
effect. In places, colour compositions break through the surface while the paint’s earthy, chapped
consistency adds a dynamic structure. All decisions regarding painting are immediate outcomes of a
thorough self-observation: “Doing and reacting. Creating and destroying.” (Tollens)
GERARD HEMSWORTH’s scenarios are set on smooth monochrome backgrounds. Painterly gestures
consisting of spontaneous, personal impulses give way to a controlled contour and precisely arranged
colour fields, producing figures and objects of extremely schematic representations that bear
resemblance to comics or pictographs. A cactus appears next to horizontally and vertically stacked
beams and parallel lines, its dotted silhouette presenting cylindrical sprouts standing to attention.
Through their template-like, impersonal painterly treatment, all elements residing within the image
plane attune to extreme homogeneity. There is no hierarchical perspective; everything is captured
uniformly and appears flat, resulting in an all-over effect on a near textual level, not in line with the
gestural verve seen in Abstract Expressionism. Instead of asserting the non-representational as an
essential feature of abstraction, Hemsworth uses figuration to make abstraction legible, inserting
subjects comprised of interchangeable characters, their meaning established in ever-new interpretative
OLAV CHRISTOPHER JENSSEN describes the way in which he works as follows: “My principle is to not
correct myself.” In his mainly colourful works, the artist combines different styles and forms of
painting, all the while remaining open to a dynamic act of painting. Spontaneity and regularity
alternate, occasionally resulting in contrasting forms of expression as moulding movement and playful
verve dominate the artist’s brushstrokes. The freedom of letting anything happen and leaving traces
while doing so, allows various elements to occur simultaneously: block-like colour fields, ornamental
figures, staccato-type scribblings, colour streaks, strict geometric and seemingly vegetal shapes, even
letters appear in his paintings. Through overlays, smudging, and hints of figuration the viewer may
follow a track ultimately leading him back into the turmoil of this painterly cosmos.
DAVID REED’s subject range consists of painterly components specific to the medium. One of these
“medial attributes”, the brushstroke, is frequently cited and varied by the artist, sometimes by
smoothly applying a layer of glaze, sometimes by wielding a paintbrush saturated with paint. Like
baroque draperies exposing physicality by the way in which they fall, Reed’s skilful handling of the
brush creates an illusory world. Instead of venturing into the alternative reality of illusionism, Reed
broaches the issue of pictorial means that enable such deception, allowing painterly effects to develop
into independent subjects. In an almost baroque style the painted figure appears voluminous and glazed
in colour, lavishly filling the canvas and claiming its existence as a pictorial embodiment of painting

Tags: Gerard Hemsworth, Olav Christopher Jenssen, David Reed