Filling Architecture with Ease | Stefan Kraus

 | Translation by Inge Goodwin

The problem of the possibilities of a room space for art was addressed by Ines Hock last year with a detailed descrip-tion of the atmospheric conditions which go to encourage an artist’s work. „The artist needs a basic structuring of space”, she wrote at that time, „a,fixed’ undecorated setting that does not distract. Nevertheless, no locality is with-out some individual character; it exerts an influence by its own conditioning factors.”‘This dialectical insight follows on an intensive analysis of spatial situations which may at first surprise in view of the focus of her art. For the paintings of Ines Hock are characterised by the self-sufficiency of the visual surface, which makes it appear largely independant of spatial connections, more like realms of colour opening to the interior. Admittedly the fact that, as regards painting technique, she has not adhered to any specific standards has caused some irritation and prevented her definite placing within the spectrum of contemporary colour painting. Her attitude has been openly indifferent towards certain significant details whose working out has varied from picture to picture. This deliberate inconsistency has been particulary manifested in the varying surfaces of her paintings, whose range streches from an almost calligra-phic application of horizontal brushstrokes, developing an even calm velvety texture, to high-gloss colour coats on whose ultimate surface irregularities of the canvas weave protrude like a rash while abrupt changes to matt dried patches achieve a comparatively dramatic effect. Common to these pictures is an expressed contradiction, between the pictorial depth of colour layered in multiple cross-hatched glazes and the „mirror” surface throwing the viewer’s image back at him, sealing off the depths and repelling intrusion. The movement such observation demands is comparable to that of a soot particle in the melted wax of a candle flame: at the moment of dosest approach to the centre the thermal current causes a catapult-like recoil, followed by a renewed approach, and so on. This phenomenon demonstrates again that the present predilection of artists for spatial installations has also had some influence on easel painting, for the relationship of a painting to surrounding space is much more consciously explored nowadays than by previous generations. Ines Hock, by the often strongly individualistic hanging of her works – vaguely reminiscent of the presentation schemes of Russian and Dutch Constructivists in the early’20s – indicates how much she sees her paintings as dependent on the respective preconditions of the venue, how much she wants to build up a spatial context despite their relatively small formats. Against this background her turning to mural or indeed ceiling painting shows a logical development, in that she aims to establich an irreversible and convincing interaction between architecture and painting. Since 1996 she has been able to realise three settings, here to be discussed and compared with each other.

The difficulty in acknowledging the independent character of a decorative wall Installation as a work of free painting emerged very clearly with the first „colour space” at the Cologne Moltkerei Werkstatt. For no happening took place, no kind of object was imported or hung: instead Ines Hock’s ceiling painting by itself allowed the venue, which from 1981 had been in continuous use for performances and shine forth in hitherto unguessed beauty².The multicoloured stripes painted on the ceiling appeared as a reflection of the floorboards, which bore all-too-visible marks of active use, and became an integral part of the existing Situation. „The spatial disposition of the ceiling becomes a painting, the painting becomes an architectural component”, Ines Hock wrote at the time in an introductory draft. To visit this exhibition was to find oneself in an empty room whose welcoming atmosphere acted as an invitation to fill it with life. While the formal symmetry of floor and ceiling showed a firm framework and conceptual clarity, the tentative application of colour by individual brushstrokes conveyed an impression of fragility which, in harmony with the colouration built upon yellow, red and blue disseminated a happy basic mood, not aiming to dominate, only slightly overshadowed by awareness of the temporal limitation of this exhibition situation. A long table,a companionable evening’s meal in this atmosphere, that wood have been a great thing…

That these spatial creations are not intended to dominate anybody or anything, but simply to fit into the existing situation in the most natural way was confirmed by the frieze-like wall installation Ines Hock created in 1997 at the „Kunstwerk” (Work ofArt) exhibition in the vestibüle of a disused factory in Cologne-Deutz.3 Her painting running round the upper third of all the walls adjusted to the superannuated atmosphere of the architecture.Vertical bands of yellow, and red alternated in a colouring so pale that it seemed – like a medieval fresco revealed under many much later coats of paint – more like a faint residue than a fresh painting. The unadorned and inconspicuous room received, from the calm rhythm of „Four Colours in Flour Glazes” a positively dignified aura, inviting if  nor exactly a prolonged stay, at least a thoughtfull progress. The tendency towards minimal colour expressed in this muted handling of the four basic colours had been prefigured in Ines Hock’s works on paper for many years. These recapitulate the entire repertoire of her technique of layered glazes, which – as in her oil paintings – started out initially from restriction to one colour, whose depth and intensity was built up through a succession of layers. She later abandoned this limitation in favour of multi-colour,sometimes also realised in one layer as a mixed colour. Her works on paper, for which she prefers to use watercolour card, display the casual nature of colour samples.They allow her to experiment in an unpretentious way with colourist and cromatic relationships, where the pitted texture of the  paper stands in for  the material solidity of a wall. It is valid for both media that the brushstroke once applied cannot be corrected, the glaze once set cannot be removed. Instead, after each applied layer the resultant  may be considered either transitory or definitive.

An invitation to set up a very unusual architectural situation in the Edith-Stein-Haus on the Michaelsberg in Siegburg, newly built in 1997, was her first chance to create a permanent wall installation with which this venue will in future be identified.4 In this biulding used by the Archbishopric for devotions a free-standing wall on a circular groundplan was available, its course interrupted in two places on the same axis by a glass front separating a conference room from the vestibule area lying in front of it. After several large-format preliminary sketches on hanging paper banners and the construction of a model on a scale of l: 100, the painting was carried out over Easter 1998. The visitor can now see the result, a wall surface dominated by a delicate Indian yellow. While 3 bands of a stronger red divide it horizontally, pale vertical red stripes create an almost musical progression on the wall surface, which , however, remains subdued in the background. In the interaction with the site environment (impossible to simulate), the colouring of the wall comes out notably lighter and more open than in the preparatory samples. In conjunction with the daylight coming in from one side only, the curve of the wall surface makes up an enormous bulk which leads the light colour without gradual transition into a dark depth. As in the preparatory sketches on paper ,the coating of paint  with its multiple glazes allows the various component pigments to surface in alternation. The cloudlike density of this wall painting exhales an air of ease unfolding in contrast with the architecture. Against the hardness and brightness of the latter, conditioned by the materials used throughout the building – white wall decor, basalt and sisal flooring, iron and oakwood – Ines Hock sets the unspecific cheerfulness of her colours, the openness of her glazing, and the  wandering line of her graphic style, which makes her work appear „unfinished” by comparison. Different in effect from the Deutzer Room but with comparable intention, the colour on this carefully worked-out area does not seem a remnant but a beginning. The fragmentary character achieved in both designs demands completion through the cooperation of the observer.The slightly shiny lacquer finish gives the painting an untouched aura and forms, as in the pictures, a seemingly permeable yet protective skin. It is good that this wall is planned to withstand the changes of use.

In the work of Ines Hock the element of permissiveness is probably more important than the urge to prevail. Just as she refuses to be tied down in her paintings to one specific treatment of colour, preferring to follow inclanation and to some extent letting interaction take its course, so with her wall creations she refuses to force a dominant defnition on the respective room. She stresses the space-enclosing function and the concreteness of the architecture, without overruling them, but also without adopting their precision and anonymity. As the individual handwriting of the artist’s brush remains an important characteristic of her wall painting, it differs from functionalist or constracted wall installations which, in the footsteps of De Stijl and the Bauhaus, aspire to a synthesis of architecture and plastic art. Starting out from the casualness of her „colour samples” on paper, her wall painting become a component of the given situation, not making a show of the artistic autonomy.This aim, „not to be conscious of being a Work of Art” (Ines Hock, in conversation), distinguishes the wall paintings and works on paper from tle unambiguously objective nature of her easel paintings. In following „the influence of given conditions”, her sensitive actions do not lead to an artistic take-over of the sites with herself at the centre, but to the enrichment of the out from the perception of the arrangements and making the life that takes place within the enrichment of their potential use, starting out form the perception of the arrangements and making the life that takes place within them true essence.

1  Ines Hock in: Kolumba. An architectural competition in Cologne 1997. Pubd. For the Diözesanmuseum Cologne by Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König. Cologne 1997. P.95.
2 Farbraumarbeit (Colour space Installation) Moltkerei-Werkstatt, Single exhibition, Cologne, 9-18 May 1995; PenciI cartoon, superimposed colour pigments mixed with size: yellow, ochre, red, brown, blue; 2 layers of paint; ceiling area 78.5 qm.
3  ‘4 Farben, 4 Lasuren’ (4 Colours, 4 Glazes), „Kunstwerk” group Show, Cologne-Deutz, 9-23 November 1987. Ht. of wall 3.65 m., painted wall area l .80 m, wall area 27 qm
4  o. T., Edith Stein Haus, Michaelsberg, Siegburg; executed beginning to end of April 1998; foundation Venetion red; colour pigments in dispersion with size to give matt finish; Alizarin (red madder varnish light), Cadmium green, Pridererite yellow, Neapolitan yellow-reddish, Paliotol yellow-orange; 3 glazes; transparent lacquer. Ht. of wall 2.67 m., wall area 36 qm.