The Kemp Collection

Willi Kemp: Over the past decade, you have painted pictures on canvas, wood and paper, designed flags, created sculptures, organised colour in rooms, constructed boxes and furniture and coloured them. All these activities centre around colour. But what is the basic idea behind all your doings? Michael Growe: When you paint a picture, you inevitably create a corpus. On the one hand, as a conglomerate of raw materials, but on the other it reflects the corpus’s character: the corpus is charged in its own, specific way. This charge can be different in nature. However, it depends on which artistic means the painter has used. In 1984/85, I began using pieces of wood as image carriers for small, plastic works. Each of these pieces of wood is part of an organic whole, and painting every side of it made it into a whole again. When you do that, the coat of paint (as a material and not just as an appearance of colour) covers the piece like a skin and seals it as a body. But because of the way it has been painted, the immanent dynamic of the wood, the way it is organically grown, remains clearly visible. Organising the colours of such a picture, for instance, can uncover a totally different spatial aspect than one would expect from the picture carrier’s three-dimensional structure. And isn’t it basically energy that creates this new space? A painting as a battery! If you look at it this way, colours create a charge - not the paint, the colour itself. A charge that overrides the dimensions of the pieces of wood and disengages from their corpus. (…) I have experimented with different carriers. One aspect of these trials was to move from the face-to-face-situation that the beholder of a small piece of artwork experiences to the a vis-à-vis of two bodies (the body of the painting versus the beholder’s body).(…) In this respect, there is not much point in imitating nature, copying it formally. My focus is to address the creation of a picture, to develop its formation by making use of the potentials of colour. You can only create a whole in terms of the process of formation, in terms of nature you can only ever create a clipping. I was never interested in that. W.K.: What were you interested in? M.G.: (…) In times of the new media, of the cyberspace and the internet, we mustn’t forget the sensual reality of our existence. It’s not about discriminating the new media and their potential - my focus is on painting. A painting instantaneously creates images through its charged bodily existence that go beyond the narrative, beyond conceptuality, beyond transcendency. W.K.: Could you explain your concept of charging to us in some more detail? M.G.: (…)The concept refers to the energy, with which the profane material has been charged through the artist’s treatment. This treatment turns an object, into more than just an assembly of things, into an opus. (…) The English languages differentiates between ‘colour’ and ‘paint’. The term paint refers to the material that is used, colour is the effect, the appearance of colour. The way in which interacting colours shine, their apparitional power, that is Colour. In terms of the art of painting, Colour is unthinkable without paint. Paint is the raw material, the physical prerequisite of Colour, but if it is not organised in an interactive way, it remains just that. Colour emerges through the artist’s view and his work on the painting. That is a remarkable gain - that is what I call charging (….) An artist’s focus has never been the replica image - even if it seemed to be for a while. It was about creating something separate from the Creation. It is this distinction, this formulation of a parallel world, that makes a picture of our world meaningful - a world we can, regrettably, never capture in its entirety. It’s about world images. (….) W.K.: You once spoke of the painting as a mirror. What do you mean by this allegory of painting and mirror? M.G.: The word reflection, besides referring to an optical phenomenon, also means the attempt to gain new insights through perception. This is traditional and many artists from Velazques to Richter have turned it into a subject of their work. Don’t you also have a painting with the title “Mirror” in your collection? And incidentally, your collection is also a mirror of Willi Kemp! From perception to self-perception and back. That has always been an interesting journey and still is. And maybe the first image ever was a mirror: when the Neanderthal first recognised his image in a puddle of water. Wow! Shortly after that, Narcissus had to find out: you mustn’t fall in love with your mirror image, your reflection. But that’s a different story, isn’t it? Excerpts from an interview with Willi Kemp, 2001