The beautiful Side | Sabine Müller

Kunsthaus Wiesbaden, 2007 | Translation by Victoria Bell

The Kunsthaus Wiesbaden is housed in an imposing neo-classical building. The exhibition room proper also has good proportions; the long sides measure 18 meters, the walls across are 9 meters and the height of the room is 4.5 meters to the foot of the cloth ceiling installation. Moreover the wonderful lighting plays an essential part in creating the generous space of the room, thanks to a row of closely-spaced windows set high along one of the long walls. The walls are painted white, and the floor is covered with planks. One of the walls across has a balcony. From the balcony you are able to get a wonderful overview of the entire room and are able to see the painting on the opposite wall as if it were a stage.

“The Beautiful Side” – as Ines Hock calls her wall painting – has not to struggle here with a difficult space, but exactly the opposite. Ines Hock has decided to make the best use of the light-filled, even festively radiant room as the ideal starting-off point for a kind of painting that through its transparency and sensitivity to light, and through what one might call, somewhat inadequately but perhaps most correctly, a serene openness, is able to accept these qualities of the space of the room itself and give them back to it – and give them back at once. The room seems made to include this “beautiful side” on its own as part of the beautiful color of the light it affords. The layout of the balcony and windows penetrating the upper part of a single-roomed building is typical of meeting-rooms, but more than anything it also relates closely to the space of a church. In that space the wall on view plays the role of the wall behind the altar, whose enclosed planes in Romanesque times were usually reserved for the central fresco in the cycle of iconography of the church.

Even though the painting here is not strictly speaking fresco painting (in which the colors must be painted into the wet plaster), due to the sheer size of the wall and the fact that it cannot be painted without using a scaffolding, it is necessary , as in fresco painting, to work each day in clearly separate parts. Because of this, a kind of painting consisting of free-flowing passages of color, as Ines Hock often employs in her canvases and there is still a suggestion in some of her less-spacious wall paintings (Edith-Stein-Haus, Siegburg, 1998), is not possible here. However, the building suggests that an ordered structure, set out in lines is possible. As in her first room piece in the Koelner Moltkerei (1996), the bands of color bear a relationship to the floorboards, although they exceed the boards’ lengths and widths by a long shot, and strengthen their resemblance to the wall as they “bind” together like bricks and mortar. The areas are so arranged that a single long stroke of a large flat brush can just cover them. The drive for limits is coupled with the utmost freedom for the free run of the brush, so that even though the whiteness of the wall is fully-covered it still shines through; so the color can be fluidly and rapidly applied, to marvelous effect.

Because of this, in spite of its wide spatial extension the painting, so free and coming from the wrist can have the effect of watercolor quickly brushed out on paper. This is not about a watercolor painted on the wall, for example, with the help of a light projection or grid. Such methods of laying on paint are frequently used when the actual work of art is mainly to be seen as a design, and the execution on the wall, as in Sol LeWitt’s work, can be left to assistants in a pinch. However a watercolor as such cannot be repeated like this. The loose-knit processes, the varying color gradations, the white of the ground flashing through them, cannot be copied. As in a watercolor, the decisive characteristics of this wall piece can only be achieved by the direct hand of the artist.

Two characteristic features of Ines Hock’s work achieve their full significance here; the attitude towards color as an open and ideally free-to-evolve medium on the one hand, and on the other, the accompanying relationship of the painting to the wall and to the space of the whole room. The color is applied very fluidly so it can unfold freely to its full range. However, the color is not wholly autonomous but is seen through its involvement in relationships. Painting is mainly seen here as the relationship of color to its surroundings; to the wall, to light, to space – also outside space – and to architecture. Already in the early monochrome easel paintings Ines Hock has made the painting an interface melding inside with outside space. With time, the easel paintings have become more and more open; they have become lighter and more transparent, and have hence bound themselves more tightly to the wall, the space, and the light of the room. Their high sensitivity to light permits a whole range of shades and gradations of color, and special qualities like being glowing or matte, glistening or being earthy and claylike to come to the full. With the gestural component, the color’s kind of “performance”, an emotional mood opens up – its tendency to become aggressive, cheerful, celebratory, precipitous, and so on. In spite of, or even because of the painting’s high degree of emotion, connotations with content cannot be ruled out. The elemental comes and goes, with blue reminding one of sky and water, yellow of the sun, and green of vegetation.

So as “The beautiful Side” changes depending on the incident light and its intensity, so does the impression created of a relatively solidly wall-like bricks-and-mortar frontality transform into a vision of shimmering vista with decidedly landscape-like associations. The more the painting dematerializes, the more strongly the colors on view in the interior become conflated in the mind with colors one has seen in the outside space; blue becomes associated with the sky, the green with the green in May of the city parks and the rose-color with the form of the façade of the Kunsthaus. The graphic structure of a wall fills up with the colored reflection of the environment. The outside environment does not just push through the windows into the room, but also finds an echo in the wall painting itself. In the act of seeing, colors and light values gain their fulfillment in a volume suspended between architecture and landscape. In the eye of the observer a picture emerges in the sense of the “image”, in English, as a very personal expression of the perception of a place.