Images of the infixable

Since 1995, Markus Krüger has been pursuing a work on the greatness of nature, on the inconceivability of its minuteness, its incomprehensible duration in the momentary, in one’s experience of marks and layers of time. He has developed his own field of investigation and experience in which history, the infinite number of histories of nature open up: a quarry, which he explores on those days, when nobody is working there – exploring its age-old indifference to dimensions that are far beyond human size, bursting open and noticeable even in the smallest crevices, in the sediment of the standing water, in the sounds in the silence. Krüger does not try the impossible, that is to represent nature, but transforms his reactions, his way of experiencing fleeting moments and those which last, the tensions in silence, his registering of the unexpected, his surprise in face of reality, of its strangeness. First, he recorded his observations by committing to paper cursory notes, small signs, in various directions. In addition, he took photographs (in black and white) marks, fragments, shadows, edges of light, moments. [1]

The delicate oscillations of these records, his instantaneous reacting, his being driven, his hastily gliding further, the marking of sign-like resting points – created from 1996 to 2002, Markus Krüger transferred all this onto his Schriftbilder quickly “written” with ink onto canvases, vibrating, one overlapping the other – marks which did not allow any corrections. One’s eyes move through shimmering layers of different courses of “writing,” they detect signs, wedges, numerical strokes, and they are guided by encircled resting points, sometimes even by an open area, a small “spot” from which one’s view immediately jumps on to similar signs. Each of these paintings keeps up its own rhythm which has grown together in it in very different ways, evenly filling the surface, fluidly merging, up to dramatic contrasts between strongly forward flowing streams and solidifications which press against them.

At the same time, Krüger created paintings in which he continued the restlessly iridescent colors of his early paintings, though now spreading them across the whole surface so that nothing in these paintings can be marked off any longer. Everything is flowing, glowing, and sinking down, shimmering transformation and therefore, at the same time, soil (Erdverschiebung is the title of a work from 1998) and light. The wavy characteristic style, the marks of the brush which again and again start anew, stand out and transfer impulses from the Schriftbilder into the art of painting. Again, the incomprehensible, the momentary, the intensity of transience determine the picture’s subject matter. Strömung, Licht, Rodung are the titles of these paintings, which Krüger continues up to the present, still enhancing their shimmering, glowing, directed, and at the same time calm incomprehensibility which is controlled by an inner rhythm.

Again and again, Krüger is fascinated by the phenomenon of waves, their sparkling and rhythmic combination of matter and light. In several drawings he includes the white of the paper as positive spaces which penetrate the shimmering crests of the waves creating an amazing unity of flitting nervousness, generous rhythm and a meditative condition. Elements of the earlier paintings of writings and textures appear in these later drawings: the quick impulses, the striking repetitions, the layers, and the structural uniformity – different in each drawing – and always kept with great consistency. Yet, in the later drawings, these elements merge more into one another, they look less bulky, thus amazingly enhancing both their contrariness and their unity. In a sketch, in which Krüger records structures of connections and landmarks in the area of a pasture (without giving them any solidity), he notes: “Space between the clouds / section of time / near at hand – infinitely far away / felt movement.” Again, it becomes clear how nature is not seen as an objective reality but exclusively as a subjective experience – and how, at the same time, this subjectivity is not determined by the artist’s personality. It is not directed towards the emotional or expressive, but is totally concentrated onto the outside, onto aspects and moments in nature, onto its incomprehensible intensity as experience.

In all these records, pictures of writings, creations of impressions of stones, of soil, of plants, of sounds, of water, of clouds, time plays a central role. Rather than that which remains (and which does not exist in nature, though art suggests something else whenever depicting nature). That which shortly appears, which has just been experienced (which also includes the seeming permanence of stone layers), becomes a lasting, unforgettable perception. Time, which can be felt in various kinds of change, belongs directly to that which we experience as forest, as water, as plants, as light. In a fascinating way, Krüger has also included them in photography, which he has long been using simultaneously with painting in order to explore the impressive-transient. In 2002, he placed a camera on a tripod in a forest and pointed it at trees in a way that their branches, moving in the wind, stood out against the sky (Zeitengang 2). By means of back lighting and longer exposure, the black-and-white film recorded the curvy blurs which transform the illusion of a recorded image into fan-like streams, dissolving the rising movements of the trunks and branches and penetrating them in an immaterial way. The rhythmic grouping of these photo-prints into a sequence produces another shaped non-solidity for one’s viewing, which hurries from photograph to photograph, yet, without finding a cinematic “course of pictures.” Parallel to these, Krüger made use of the means of drawing on paper and of acrylic on cardboard, creating very similar, increasing curves by manifold hatchings which again transform impressions of nature into painterly processes.

Over the last years, Krüger has introduced another aspect of time-dynamics into photography, namely the aspect of a subjective variability and changing orientation. In the color photographs of the MC series (2006-2010), he used the photo camera like a video camera, moving the opened lens for two to six concentrated seconds purposefully with regard to the object: to color. He precisely directs the incidence of light onto the photosensitive surface, adjusting the distribution of more striking and of more fleeting impressions, their courses and their arrangements in the picture. These visual processes are designed without any digital effects. Actually, he just records them, he does not manipulate them. “You’re right in the middle of it,” he says about the process of photographing. This is also true for the viewer. However atmospheric, unfixed and blurred these photographs look, they radiate a very definite appearance of light, development of color, and an atmosphere of light and dark. This definiteness is not experienced as form, but as movement. Correspondingly, rather than recognizing the representative motif, such as a flower or a plant, one notices a special spreading and concentration of color, of a spatial dimness, of the slower or the swifter compressing and expanding processes of light. Whatever we learn about nature is nothing but appearance and impression. Yet, it is amazing, how impressive this appearance is, though – or maybe just because – it does without any illusion of objective firmness and “focus.”

In his paintings, pictures with writings, drawings, and photographs, Markus Krüger fixes the unfixable of nature, its incomprehensibility, its infinite dynamics of time. His pictures suggest the non-pictorial: movement, transformation, fragmentariness. In the 14 part photo-series, Zeitengang 11 from 2011, the “frozen” calmness, which is very unusual in Krüger’s pictures, turns out to be a mutual penetration of manifold processes. The dark shapes in the whitish surroundings show processes of balancing freezing and melting, crystalline, iced over surface and liquid depth, in which the minimal plant “warmth” only just thaws the thin cover of hoarfrost on the icy skin. Positive turns into negative, surface turns into spatial, form turns into movement. The digital processing of the pictures was confined to the methods of analogous photography. In some prints, Krüger has transformed the whitish areas into black ones by solarization, thus reversing once more the relationship of figure and ground. No form appears to be lasting, every view becomes a momentary movement, which reaches further, loses hold, and therefore discovers cognition.

[1] Markus Krüger – Steinzeiten, exh. cat. Kunstverein Lippstadt, 1998, with an essay by Tayfun Belgin.

Dr. Erich Franz, Münster, 2011