Storms, volcanic eruptions and the beginning of the world on the picture cycle "CREATURES AND PHENOMENA" by Albrecht Gehse

History and heroism are Siamese twins that often appear grim, kept chimerically alive by the metabolism of ideology and politics. The painter Albrecht Gehse intervenes effectively at this point with his new picture cycle.

Looking at his new cycle, I thought of the bronze sculpture that can be seen in the Hallein Celtic Museum, depicting a dying Celtic warrior. History is always written by the victors, but generals have no time for that; they leave it to painters and poets.

For me, the “dying warrior” in the Hallein Museum was a starting point for understanding the current cycle from the painting workshop of Albrecht Gehse, who once again faces the raging world as a rebellious contemporary diagnostician. If the viewer accepts this risky point of view, he inevitably leaves the corridors of opinion and exposes himself to the breath of world history. Without a face mask.

World history? A word that inevitably sends waves crashing over you.

If you want to survive, you have to swim and brave the elements. Keep your heart rhythm stable, stay with yourself. Isn't the world made up of billions of everyday attempts at survival? Nothing less than this seems to be captured on canvas in the painter's pictures: the prismatically broken state of a humanity that is fragmented into cultures and religions.

Every space of being insists on wholeness and uniqueness, the individual as well as society. The resulting conflicts have always determined the course of the world, which was no less confused at the time of Luther, Dante or Gilgamesh than it is today.

The history of humanity is a history of fractures that cannot be healed by the victors monumentalizing their view of wars, even though this is still a common and quite successful strategy today. A strategy that can be equated with the song of the sirens: Like Odysseus, each ship's company ties itself to the mast in order to resist the temptations and return home safely to port. But in the sea of ​​history there is no harbor, because the days crash into one another in waves, leaving the individual at best only a wafer-thin bracket for biographical information.

However, our history is made up of biographical information, the signs of individual perception - despite all the politically and ideologically desired rededication.

Let us use this premise as the basis for the following consideration of Albrecht Gehse's artwork and take Ludwig Wittgenstein's position into account: "The limits of my language are the limits of my perception."

Albrecht Gehse reaches far and wide to physically throw his existence at the world and its waves. The physicality with which this painter works is noticeable in the pictures. He finds himself exposed to a creative situation that no longer allows iconographic reference. Those who swim for their lives do not think about how others swam or drowned. The muscular style of his pictorial inventions leaves no time for subtle reference to the visual discourse of current trends in the visual arts and inevitably results in a radical position that rolls out the red carpet for the painter to take risks. This charges his latest pictures with the persistence of the rebellious, who is concerned with a social tabula rasa from his artistic perspective. That's why, and this is the real tension of the new series, the painter puts together contradictions that our contemporary society can hardly tolerate in tableaus. In “Apparition (2022) the planet Earth appears distant, a woman walks through the blood-red water of a pool - do we still know where we are or have we gone crazy from the virtual possibilities that the digital world opens up to us appears? Would it be desirable for Lilith to return so that the “old Adam” could finally look into the millennia-old rearview mirror and take his foot off the accelerator? Is the fall into the sea, as formulated in “Coast” (2023), a warning sign that takes into account the propagated climate change, a nod to Caspar David Friedrich or an invitation to look at nature, which usually knows better than humans? And what does “Abdul do with the hammer” (2024)? Does it chop up society, the national body or the viewer's presence? The painter gives the answer with “Uferlos” (2021) and thus places himself as the creator of his visual world in the middle of the raging storm, which he tangibly stages in all-consuming violence with “Kreuzsee” (2023).

Gehse does this against the background of a European intellectual culture committed to the Enlightenment and human rights, which he sees faltering. Henry Kissinger, the former US Secretary of State who recently died at an old age and whose portrait appears in “Balance” and “Between the Blocks” (both 2023), knew about this wavering. The two portraits of an equally admired and controversial figure on the world political stage add drama to the historical arc that the painter draws in this series. The same pulse can be felt in “David and Goliath” (2023), “The Drummer I and II” (2023) and “Victory Celebration” (2024).

With this visual artistic relationship, the painter questions what we in the so-called West think we know, turns the bottom up, nests tableaus, undermines certainties, plays with collective irritation, provokes and evokes. It was interesting for the author of this study to explore the associative aspects of this painting complex; and lo and behold, the undercurrents that have become images reach back to the beginning of the world with “The ones under the water you can see” (2024), because it is the Titan Oceanus who, according to ancient Greek beliefs, rules the oceans and rivers. This original uncle of Zeus stayed out of the battle between gods and titans and founded a large family with his wife Tethys, from which an incredible three thousand children were born. Is that why Okeanos cannot be considered as an informant for the painter? Yes, Okeano's attributes of snake and fish, which are part of the painter's metaphorical base material, suggest it, and with this picture Gehse brings his cycle to the confusing point: orders can only be maintained against order, or they disappear into the waves.

In comparison to previous series, which are similarly complex and make intermotivational references appear to be taken into account, the painter leaves the position of the distant viewer of the world, surrenders to creation to the point of exhaustion and sees himself as a part of it with every stroke of the brush.

Radjo Monk, 21.03.2024