Untitled (Baum 44), 2015
Oil on canvas
250 × 250 cm
Albert Oehlen’s Baumbilder (Tree Paintings) series is a manifestation of the artist’s ongoing study of the abstract visual language. The tree image appeared in the Oehlen’s work in the 1980s. Since then it has been a recurring subject in his art, a motif that he repeatedly re-defined and through which he re-examined the foundations of painting itself, expanding and constantly bending its boundaries.
“What reasons can you have to move left, right, straight, or in circles? There are many answers to that. And then I saw the trees doing that in a way, the winter tree that I choose. They have the freedom to make any move. And so they are a kind of model of abstraction.”
In his studies of abstract painting, Oehlen has not completely abandoned the elements of figurative imagery. Consequently, the elegantly detailed illusory of the “Tree Paintings” is a complex fusion of two opposing pictorial practices, which, when combined, do not antagonize one another, but rather complement the integral visual composition.
Floating within the picture plane, bare and leafless tree trunk with its tangled branches depicted on white ground, next to the blocks of magenta colour gradations is devoid of any of the natural environments found in traditional landscape painting, calling into question the very essence of nature.
In the painted, spray-painted and screen printed lines, the textural mechanical forms collide with the hand-made gestures. Instead of using the canvas as a foundation for his work, Oehlen applied oil on aluminum-coated panels. On the surface of the Dibond, the geometrical tree lines seem to be digitally manufactured, and only upon a closer look appear to be elegantly rendered painting works.
Albert Oehlen. Gagosian Gallery, London, UK. 5 February – 24 March 2016
Catalogue – Albert Oehlen. Gagosian Gallery, London, 2016