As part of his first solo exhibition in Düsseldorf - 27 years after his rejection from the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf - Johannes Wohnseifer will present a new series of almost square images at Linn Lühn, whose matte surfaces seem to elude any clear classification within the strict framework of painting. The image grounds distance themselves from the viewer, snuggling cooly and reticently against the walls of the room along the angles of their edges - structured only by the intensities of fine lines inscribed upon them.
Likewise, the surfaces only slowly avail themselves to recognition and take us deeper into a visual pro-cess in which the formal image ground is situated somewhere between an abstract objecthood and a minimal-ist conception of images. Subtle and reduced to the minimum, Wohnseifer elevates the surface to a sub-strate for the associations produced by our perception and suspends the painterly connotations of the dark, laser-engraved visual fields from our view. What remains after the withdrawal of the topmost visual layer, however, is the antithesis of our voyeuristic gaze as Wohnseifer's images refuse being observed and lock away their subject from the external world's gaze, somewhere between the evocations of the reduced elegance of fine, pinstriped fabric. The visual structure literally corresponds to "White Lines," allowing us to puzzle over their iconic status, much like the contours of a shadow.
Similar to the precise traces of the varying wooden substrates, the corresponding photographic portraits, which Wohnseifer describes as the visual references for his paintings, likewise evade the viewer's per-ception. Their protagonist, the Hollywood star Greta Garbo, shyly turns away from the paparazzi, deny-ing a glance at her singular countenance, the presence of which is steadily intensified by a structured withdrawal. Nothing is more evocative of the iconic face of this diva, whose self-imposed withdrawal from the public sphere at the height of her career in 1941 made her a legend—and yet the incomparable aura of that mysterious dream-factory sphinx is more present than ever. The photos of the secretive star testify to another image. A life like she'd imagined it: quiet, remote, and alone. Like the surfaces of Wohnseifer's painted counterparts, she withholds the traces of her identity from our gaze, and like the decryption of the “Password Paintings," the key to her person remains nonetheless locked away. The surfaces of the pho-tographic and painterly layers in Johannes Wohnseifer's referential superpositions encode themselves anew just as silently and reveal the subtractive process of withdrawal not just as a ruined system, but also as a point of departure for the development of a pictorial or iconic unapproachability.
It is a quiet, restrained process which opens up in Wohnseifer's works and discloses a referential dialog between the images. Fine, reflective, and invisible like the blades of Rudolf Schwarz' lamps. A subtle field of relationships, at the heart of which the reduced perceptual input of our eyes limitlessly entwines with iconic images from our memories: only visible in the oscillation between reservedly gifting and intentional-ly withdrawing our associations, just like Garbo.
Philipp Fernandes do Brito