The universe is an incessant attraction and counter-attraction of mass and the reforming of energy; it is the permanent collision of forces and eternal expansion and implosion of space. In this respect the universe consists of conflict and battle.
Existence on earth is no different. A creature’s life is one of concern and care and reproduction but it also consists of tirelessly hunting down and devouring one another. Man’s history reveals itself as a process of cultivation, in which beating, stabbing, exploitation and war also play a role – interrupted by attempts to create and maintain peace.
Human’s fail to find harmony even within themselves. Sensations of balance and equilibrium remain fleeting. Time and again Physis and Psyche find themselves in a state of non-identity, for man is compelled to react to the changes around him, which in turn make an impression on him. Albert M. Pümpel concerns himself with these very aspects of the human condition.
Man has the potential to create a variation on the given circumstances – he is able to cultivate life. This gives him the possibility and the desire to create a distinct way of life that surpasses a sheer fight for existence. With it come dignity, individual love, peace, mutual respect and reconciliation. A fundamental element of this cultivation process can be found in art.
Surprisingly, contemporary artists depict neither that, which man has brought about nor the landscapes nature has provided. For the supremacy of the representational can evoke the impression, that objects and technology are the essence of life. Albert M. Pümpel is not one to pursue this form of representation; his pictorial approach shows us another reality. What is left for the artist when he rules out the objective world? What remains is the depiction of that which causes humans to give birth to a world of products. It is Man’s very essence; that which enables him to outwit nature as well as to banish his own instincts and establish culture. However, this cunning leads to painful encounters that are central to human existence. In his pictures Albert M. Pümpel poses these existential experiences as opposites: The contrasts between man and existence, nature and culture, body and soul, the material and the spiritual. By depicting opposing elements such as dispute and reconciliation, construction and destruction, separation and union, attraction and repulsion he is trying various ways to relax, soften and dissolve them. In this way he can portray the natural lawfulness of cosmic creation as well as the elevation of existence within art. Contrasts run through his work on various levels; methodically his works are a clash of water and oil, thematically they are a conflict of burdens and freedoms, technically they are a battle between colour and form, compositionally they are a dialogue between object and space.
The painter focuses on two apparently unrelated matters with the intention of connecting them within his art: The issue of colour and the question of existence. To him Man’s existence poses the question of life’s purpose, its value and aim as well as its conflicts and the battle of the sexes; it is a question concerning communication and sexuality, loneliness and spirituality. On exploring colour he focuses on its space shaping quality; its valence, its energy and its effect on other colours. The pictorial quality, which lies in his creation of form, meaning, content and sense as well as colour and effect, determines the value of his artistic work.
He borrows themes from Christian motifs and myths from various cultures and finds incentives in current incidences, the human body and his own desires. His picture titles appear to be inspired by the finished work – like a postscript. Generally ambivalent titles evoke a dialogue with the picture that can lead to an associative chain reaction – as with titles such as Schöpfer, Hirte or Fußwaschung (Creator/ Ladle, Shepherd or Foot Bathing) – with biblical as well as profane connotations. The title Schöpfer may trigger associations with the biblical Creator, yet the subject of the painting is human in form and accomplishment; he is ladling water from a vessel. Thus dialogue can always add a new perspective whereby two opposing themes point out a third –namely the subject matter beneath the surface.
Albert M. Pümpel works with a complex mix-technique. This too is subject to the principle of conflict and reconciliation in that incompatible materials are combined within the same piece. Their assembly takes up weeks and months of constant subsidence, destruction and reconstruction. The completion of each picture follows a lengthy journey filled with strife between material, form, theme and colour – water battling oil, egg battling water and pigments. A primer is applied to the canvas as it lies on the ground. To this the artist adds an idea sketched in aquarelle and ink. The initial motif will shine through all subsequent layers. This first coat has the second to last layer in mind. It is the perspective of the very first sketch, or it is the artist’s vague premonition. Like a seed, the beginning contains its outcome.
The paints are tempera colour. They are created by blending (temperare) pigments with an egg and oil based emulsion. They dry fairly quickly and are very enduring. They don’t harden entirely for quite some time. Work on the picture resumes with the application of an egg-oil-emulsion. This layer is either left to dry or the initial sketch is taken up again in the moist tempera. Then again, further layers might be applied.
After this the canvas is lifted and mounted on a wall. Now oil painting can commence. Oil lends accentuation, density and structure to previous layers that form the foundation for subsequent layers. The painting process increasingly condenses the work – the new creation is modified, associative and contemplative work continues.
Dense, concentrated structures are achieved through this layering technique. As with component of a story, the work as a whole is shaped by the elements that emerge from the depths of its various layers. The picture is not only interwoven on the surface but also in its physical depth. The final step is the application of shellac or an alternative finish. This protects the work and like a skin it is a vital element in holding it together. The initial water-sketch must stand up to all subsequent applications, which themselves require a degree of transparency. The bolder the opening theme, the more prominent the watery foundations will be in the final work – visible and distinguishable it will shine through all the other layers as if from another universe. Before applying shellac the artist works a little more aquarelle or coffee into the oil – by way of correction, intensification or differentiation. These watery applications blend into the final layer of varnish and lend the picture unity and completion, a solid structure and density, yet with an aura of reverie and enchantment, of the uncanny and of mystery.
These works are not born of free association but of thought, anticipation and intuition. Albert M. Pümpel’s painting has method. The method lies in pursuing and retracing a route previously explored – explored in mental anticipation. An imagined and emotional route materialises. Method from meta hodos; meta (beyond, after) hodos (way, journey). On a practical level the method leads from water to egg to oil to varnish. Idealistically and intellectually it goes the other way –from the preconceived finish through to pigments and egg-tempera with its various shapes and colours all the way down to the initial sketch.
The painting process lies frozen beneath the final layer. The ascent from primer to varnish is a process of purification and catharsis and its runs its course in many different ways spiralling from lean to fatty pigments, from vague shapes to clear forms, from colourless sketches to multiple colours, from thought fragments to a refined and distinguished piece of work. The confidence with which Albert M. Pümpel approaches his material and chooses and places his colours makes him a true philosopher of colours. He grasps the world by way of colours, their hues and their arrangement. He doesn’t follow sensible methods. The colour-philosopher diligently develops his themes, drawing on his gift of craftsmanship, his artist’s intuition and his aesthetic authority.
Man lives in light. He is dipped in sunlight that supplies the earth with energy. Sunlight transforms chemical energy into organic energy, is provides man with food and during the day it enables visual orientation. Sunlight is the source of all colours. With its alternating red and yellow glow, the sun paints nature green, fire red and the sky blue. And so for many years these four colours were considered primary colours, rather than blue, yellow and red.
Man lives with colour. Colour has mass, energy and atmosphere. Colours can influence biochemical processes and have an impact on human emotions and the psyche. That is why colour and body painting are central to ritual festivities. This reaction enables human characteristics to be described through a colour. For instance, red stands for love and aggression, yellow for warmth, calm or envy and blue for cool and relaxation.
The emotional affect of a colour gives it its significance. For example warmth or cold can be the component of an emotion the same way closeness and distance are spatial elements. In painting artists employ colour to create dots, lines and shapes. This style of drawing has a rich history within western art. But artists also turn to colour for the sake of colour alone. Herein lies one of the achievements of modernist painting. It has granted each colour a life of its own, given it a specific value and promoted it to a worthy object and an independent subject within the picture. Modernism discards rational, geometrically constructed rooms as our ultimate perception of space and by so doing it opens up a discovery space, a space for emotions, dreams and imagination. Colour has the potential to invent space.
But the value of each colour is by no means absolute. Colour becomes effective in connection with other colours. A picture’s colouring is its overall colour impression, whereby its tone value – light or dark, hard, claylike or soft – is determined by paint, matter and shading. Colouration remains Albert M. Pümpel’s main artistic interest. He starts with a shape, destroys it then rebuilds the destruction through colour. Hence his recurring choice of the triptych, which breaks down space that is understood on a rational level for the sake an emotional perception of space.
Albert M. Pümpel uses the space-shaping qualities of colour to illustrate motion, the progression of force and the affect of the weight or gravity of colours. His spaces are not concrete; they materialize by deduction, by connecting the picture’s shapes and colours to its title.
He transforms colour into shape. He works with fluid colours, as if they were aquarelles. He avoids using primary colours in their pure form. He subdues, calms and breaks them by consistently blending them on the canvas with rag. The canvas is his pallet upon which he transfigures prime colours. His painting doesn’t call for local colour, for there are no things, items or objects in his pictures. The mundane adds little to this assortment of things or shapes –shapes can depend solely upon the quality of colour from which they evolve.
Occasionally he heightens the clayey character of a colour. Pure colours are given an inky finish to subdue them, to tone them down. It is these adulterated colours from which he coaxes his forms and that influence the content of the picture.
Albert M. Pümpel’s art doesn’t depict Man’s creations or those of nature. He derives his forms from colour. In so doing, art becomes a theme in itself. At the same time he recognises in art an essential part of the cultivation process. Hence he deals with that, which we call (self)-reflection and imagination, empathy and dream.
With space and weight liberated in painting, the gravity of objects and the human form can be described emotionally. The artist uses this to reveal inner strengths – emotion, spirit, and spirituality. For it is less Man’s bodyweight and responding muscle reflexes which set him in motion, than it is his inner spirit, his motives and motivation, a certain movement that erupts from his inner being – through flexibility and participation. This leads to the depiction of what Man is. His organs and extremities enable mobility, but they do not cause it. The cause lies in the sense Man makes of his life, the goal he strives for and his unique relationship with society. Human motivation stems from the need to survive (hunger), to reproduce (erotic and sexuality) and to be accepted (morals). That which moves man has a spiritual quality. His concept of Man coupled with his knowledge of the affects of colour and colour spaces enables Albert M. Pümpel to encounter human nature through the medium of painting – through colour. Hundreds and thousands of years ago religion posed questions and Man is forever in search of fitting answers. Similar questions prevail in myth, philosophy and existentialism.
Artists from the past that have inspired him include; El Greco (1541-1614), Jusepe de Ribera (1591-1652) and Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664). His preference for dark-light motives comes from Ribera, his use of colour is influenced by Zurbarán and El Greco. His academic professor and teacher Gotthard Graubner, who refers to his own works as “Farbraumkörper” (“colour space bodies”), schooled him to focus on the interplay of figures and space. In order to emphasise the spatial properties and three-dimensionality of his colour bodies, Graubner would stuff the back of the canvas with cotton wool and cloth, thus creating a room. His top student went on to transform this idea into something new by creating tangible three-dimensional colour shapes through the medium of painting. By multiple layering, colours become colour spaces, which in turn become colour bodies – or entities.
Albert M. Pümpel’s works are complex forms of abstraction. Layer by layer he destroys the initial sketch, only to rebuild it with colour. He obscures his preliminary motif, covers it up and with painterly synthesis he transforms it into its final form.
According to philosophy, abstraction means to take away irrelevant features for the sake of uncovering and naming the essence of the matter. In Albert M. Pümpel’s painting, abstraction means excluding irrelevancies in order to uncover and visualise the essence. This visualisation is manifested in colour entities. The artist is in need of a body through which he can visualise colour, as seen by himself. He can make individual colours come alive within a whole body of colour. He uses specific forms to enhance the chosen colours’ unique effect. His use of colour is a reoccurring ritual of mixing, blending, applying, drying, layering and more mixing, blending and applying. Paint is also mass, a paste, a dough. It is like a recipe with various additional components giving it delicate nuances. Each time this ritual is fortified and a specific colour entity emerges, the creative process is recorded.
A characteristic colour entity can be found in Abraham Isaak (1986). It is a triptych with a sheep’s head featuring a particular colour entity on the side wing that reoccurs in a row of four legs each bent at the knee and belonging to Isaac and Abraham. Further stages of development are evident in Phorische Helden (Phoric Heroes), Erlkönig (Erlking) and pictures with the theme of the Träger (Carrier). Abraham, a piece completed several months later, reinforces this style. It could be a boat, a ship, a three dimensional triangle, a boomerang or an ice-skate blade. Colour entities can become human body parts or even complete human figures. One section forms a thigh, the other parts a head and trunk. As in various depictions of Job with his stunted legs and his stylised head on an elongated torso. Besides the Job pictures, other examples of the colour entity theme include: Wanderer, Mutter Kind, Wächter, Hirte, Steiger and Balance (Traveller/Hiker, Mother Child/ Mummy’s Darling, Watchman, Shepard/Clergyman, Climber/Deputy and Balance). As does his work Stierkopf (Bull Head). Despite dissimilar themes, the respective colour entities are of one type – both in colour and shape. They are like a tensed muscle, an energetic substance, the element of a living being. From 1986-1990 these became the organ of Albert M. Pümpel’s painting. The so-called colour organ lends his pictures consistency, clear boundaries and an unmistakable signature and guideline. It enables him to direct and assess his work and assures him in his colour choices. Each colour is securely anchored to a colour entity.
At the same time colour entitiesmediate physicality, muscle tension, sexuality, pain, living flesh. Besides working on colour entities in progress, the painter is always experimenting and searching for ideas for new forms. His experiments rarely find their way into a current series but they do serve as groundwork for further alterations and painting over.
Experimentation and routine work on colour entities help the artist in defining new perspectives, which might manifest themselves in a new entity. His more experimental pieces are less constrained by ritual, which often causes greater detachment from the representational.
The picture of Caterina von Siena (Catherine of Siena) from 1993 presents us with a different type of colour entity. It consists of a circle and a rectangle mirrored vertically like a playing card, whereby the circle and rectangle form the head and trunk of a human figure. Unlike in his previous designs, these shapes aren’t clearly defined but seem submerged in a fog. His figures appear fragile and detached, their colours dampened. This is not about flesh and muscle, organs or vitality, but about the other side of life; the soul, the spiritual, things fragile and breakable, things bound to human culture. Here Man’s drive for culture as a means to overcome the notion of life as a fight for survival arises. He acquires the ability to discipline and educate himself and to contain his own wants for the sake of others – for example aiding the sick and needy.
The artist has adapted the playing card motif for subsequent colour entities. Transitions are evident in the untitled pieces of 1993 and in his triptych Evangelist completed the following year. His new theme introduces the double playing card motif. Two cards next to one another present the artist with an entity of differentiated structure. The four-part series begins with the triptych Franziskus (St. Francis) (1993) and closes with that of Jerusalem (1994). The horizontal arrangement has an added vertical and the diagonal is also emphasized. The new colour entities introduce new topics. Four anticipated head and torsos have become a single figure. She is kneeling. The two heads in the lower half have become her knees, those in the upper part serve as shoulders. This process illustrates the role of colour in Albert M. Pümpel’s painting and shows how incidental his subject matters can be.
The following development demonstrates the geniality and success of Albert M. Pümpel’s colour entity principle. By means of reduction the double card has brought forth a colour entity that is confined to only one of the four circles now incentre of the picture. Stigmata (1994) is a transitional piece. Visually it is picture with four focus points and an additional circle – St. Francis’ head – in the centre. Here a radical step in the way of reduction took place, which bore the 1995 series Antlitz 1 to Antlitz 12 (Countenance 1-12). The circle, which can always be head as well as countenance, shifts to the centre of the picture and becomes the main theme. With regard to simplicity, reduction and clarity the creation of colour entities has now reached its climax: Man’s countenance is the most expressive of all things nature has conceived. It mirrors the act of being. This way new colour types are developed and reworked until the colour’s possibilities are exhausted and it time for something new. Occasionally a fully developed colour entity is reintroduced in a later work.
Colour entities are receptacles for colour. They make them vivid, give them plasticity and stability and lend them depth and expression. They can also adopt a semantic, meaningful level by awakening figurative associations.
The Meaning Behind the Artworks
The pictures’ titles are inspired by ancient myths and the Christian faith as well as by the human body, with its many possibilities and positions influenced by gravity, and also by facial expressiveness. They are called: Hiob und seine Söhne, Mose, Stabat Mater, Spagat, Bruderkampf, Balance, Römerin 1, Rücken. (Job and his Sons, Moses, Stabat Mater, The Splits, Brotherly Battle, Balance, Roman Woman 1, Back)
A pre-academic work of 1979 bares the title Wo zwei oder drei (Where Two or Three). It is an abbreviation of Wo zwei oder drei sich in meinem Namen versammeln (Where Two or Three Gather in my Name). It shows the profile of two figures sitting opposite one another. They are caught in a phase where conversation has died. They would like to understand one another, but they cannot. Technically the notion of separation is highlighted by a vertical, which connects two wooden panels hinged together with a bed sheet for a canvas. The two figures in the diptych create a unity through their very separation. The figure in left hand foreground is stretching his right hand into the other figure’s personal space. The picture’s clear structure with its emphasis on the vertical, the grey and the sparing use of red in the left hand figure’s hair and the choice of yellow for a jacket on the right hand figure make it seem like a straightforward recreation of an actual encounter. The figure on the right appears pensive, gloomy, resigned and exhausted, the figure on the right confident, challenging and full of zest. The conversation flows from left to right along the contrasts between light and dark grey, left and right, contemplation and demand and the between the two diagonals. Herein lies the simple pictorial structure that creates tension while exuding calm. The ambivalence of life shared out between two people. This early work already suggests the artist’s main theme: The portrayal of conflict and solution, of contrast and union within alternating permeation of colour and form.
One of his first pictures after leaving the academy is called Bruderkampf (Brotherly Battle). In it two human figures are embracing each other so tightly, their borders are barely distinguishable. It is divided into three parts of which the wider middle section shows the action of the fight. The middle section aligns the picture vertically, whilst two diagonals lend rhythm to the fight, not to disrupt the unwavering position the two huge figures – they are Japanese sumo wrestlers – are locked in, but to send this ball of figures rotating. Sumo had been practiced for over 2000 and is the oldest sport in Japan.
Food consumption and special training means Sumo wrestlers are not simply heavy, but they have an extremely low centre of gravity. The aim of the game being to push one’s opponent on the ground or out of the four-meter diameter ring, bodyweight is an essential feature of quality fighters. It is a close contact fight involving hugging, thrusting, lifting and pushing. Contact and dialogue within a fight could hardly be more intense. As weight categories are not used, nimbleness, speed and good technique are very important. The lighter areas to the right and left of the picture isolate the figures and counterbalance their body mass by suggesting weightlessness thus making their rotation believable. And so the picture contains the same contrasts between weight and airiness and rotation and immobility that arise when a well-trained Sumo wrestler fights, when his colossal body is lifted by the mass and strength and speed of his opponent.
The artist can rework contrast such as these into his theme of weight, colour and colour combinations. The weight of the wrestlers is an appealing motif but so too is the gravity of its content; the severe discipline of a Sumo wrestler’s life, the strict ritual of the ring-fight. Before a fight they bow and scatter a handful of salt on the floor – a Shinto cleansing ritual – then they crouch and bang their fists on the floor and look into one another’s eyes. A Sumo wrestler fight is the picture of a cosmic event. Two men slam together, they strive to heave their opponent aside, they wrestle for their position. Despite their mass and force it is a regulated, disciplined collision tempered by culture. Despite the rules and the wrestlers’ bodyweight the fights are somehow impulsive: They are over in a matter of minutes, often seconds. In the past an inferior fighter was obliged to take on tasks, he could even be killed. Sumo used to have a stronger religious and political value. Wrestlers pacified the Gods by fighting or they fought out of gratitude at harvest festivals. Feuding parties or communities would put forward Sumo wrestlers to fight on their behalf thus avoiding battles and wars. Fighting by proxy is described in the bible in the story of David and Goliath.
The highly proportionate work Spagat (Splits) was completed in the same year. Splitting legs, parting and stretching until they form one straight line. All angles of human leg motion have been explored. A right leg steps to the left, a left leg in the foreground pushes forward but supported by a left hand it maintains balance. A right hand grasps the toes of a right foot, as if verifying the width of the stride. A brisk, straddling step, tense muscles and tendons and then the added pressure of a torso driving those legs further apart. Where the legs join, the picture is divided into left and right. Upper body and head can be seen as a continuation of the left thigh, as it stretches into the right hand side of the picture, thus providing stability and beauty.
A slight bend in the knee reveals that the splits may be a step. The exercise is not complete; the splits have not been perfected. Yet even imperfect splits enforce physical strain and restraint and require regular training. Providing muscles and tendons don’t tear, a step can at its utmost be stretched into the splits. The huge step finds expression in the dimensions of the canvas and it reveals the artist’s method: The format captures the very essence of doing the splits. Head and torso play a subordinate role and remain sketchy, a leaf disguises the gender. It is the legs that are of consequence. Their span and their power. The left leg occupies a large area. The huge step requires an elongated format. Man and format alike reach their boundaries. This motif of separation, tension and splitting strides is central to Albert M. Pümpel’s work.
1989 saw the completion of the double image Gnadenstuhlpaar (Couple of the Mercy Seat/ Pair of Mercy Seats). Its vertical structure derives from the border between one canvas and the next. The Mercy Seat depicts the central theme of Christian religion the image of the Trinity. As it were, the two strands of Christianity –Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic, have each brought forth their own image of the Holy Trinity. The western variation offers a Father-God seated on a throne. Resting on his knee is the cross upon which Christ his son was crucified. A dove – the third being – hovers between the Father’s mouth and that of his son. The painter has decided against an interpretation on the given vertical composition. He is more attracted to the meditative Byzantine variation. An Andrei Rubljew picture from 1410 shows three identical angelic beings seated around a table. The rigid hierarchy offers itself to a horizontal composition. Byzantine art adapted the hospitality scene from the Abraham motif and created this original version of the Trinity, still valid in the Orthodox Church. Whereas the iconic figures take on a frontal pose, here the figures have turned, thus creating their own unity. Rubljew’s figures are bound together by a meditative unity.
Perhaps it is the dignity, fulfilment and meditative tranquillity, which they radiate that inspired the artist to take up this alternative. Each panel of the diptych shows three figures seated close together. Each wing has its own Trinity. Warm brown tones and undetermined forms create the impression of unity – as required by a Trinity picture. Both wings contain a trinity in the literal sense, namely as a closely connected group of three. The Trinity consists of Jesus and the two angels supporting him.
When viewed as a single piece, the diptych shows three beings sitting opposite another three beings. Technically the piece comes closest to Rubljew’s original when viewed as a whole. Contextually the double motif creates a deviate. This way the artist has depicted three beings, which are inspired by Christian beliefs but do not express the Trinity. The painter has reduced the initial picture down to the three figures; the table around which they are sitting, the church and the garden have been discarded. He has condensed the theme down to the portrayal of three figures that are one being.
In 1993 and 1994 the playing card motif brings about a shift in composition from the vertical to the horizontal. Doubling the figures highlights separation and contradiction. The figures are not identical, rather they are two aspects of one and the same being. As with Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) and the picture named after her. From very early on she lived an ascetic life, meditated and spoke of visions. Before long she had become a public figure influential to the course of political life. She sided with the poor, campaigned against the war and caused Pope Gregory VI to return to Rome from his exile in Avignon. She is a teacher of the church and in 1461 Pope Pius II bestows her with sainthood. The double image illustrates two sides of her being, one responding to the other. Like a breeze and a breath. Defeating the body and overriding physical needs to lead a spiritual life in the service of God and Man. Warm colours such as red, orange, brown and yellow dominate the picture. Both figures are positioned in an oval. The upper head is encompassed in light tones, the lower face is white – like spirit and soul. Just as mystics understand the effects of breathing and employ them in ascetics and meditation, the likeness of Catherine conveys breathing. She appears deep in meditation. In Buddhist and Hindu mysticism meditation means the dialogue of Man with himself and dissolution of the self into a state of Nirvana. In Christian mysticism it stands for a dialogue and union with God, the unio mystica, which is direct and without words. The top half shows her focused on meditation. Her features are hazy. In the lower half of the pictures her facial features vanish altogether. She is introspective and no longer of this world. She gives the impression of having adopted a different life in a godly and cosmic world. Her white face has a dark outline, her existence is slipping into a dark and secretive place. The mystic is a double-being belonging to two separate worlds. The face of person in meditation corresponds with a face that has become a soul. A quiet picture of elevated serenity, which also reveals the divide within Man in meditation and asceticism. The likeness radiates exaltedness, dignity and secrecy.
A woman as a person of the church and of public life, selfless yet strong enough to support the ill and needy, courageous enough to voice her critic of war, injustice and usurpation in a male dominated word, all this is central to Albert M. Pümpel’s work.
His work deals with strong, charismatic nuns, mystics and saints; Mother Teresa, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, Edith Stein or Therese of Lisieux.
The piece Eins Sein (Being One) from 1997 brings to light a further aspect of a woman, namely as a sexual being. It shows Hebrew lettering which reads Eins sein. Aligned in horseshoe shape it divides the picture into two parts along a vertical axis. Being one means union and harmony. The title also refers to the union of sexes through sexuality. Lettering in art is a process of abstraction, popular with cubists and Kurt Schwitters. In Japanese ink calligraphy, lettering is inspired by meditation. Art has the ability to revive and reinvent letters as sacred (hiero) symbols. They become hieroglyphics pointing towards the unknown, to that which, like some deities, cannot be shown. The nude and nakedness have a longstanding tradition in art, as is evident in Greek and Roman sculpture. From the Renaissance through to the 20th century the nude has a home in many fields of art. Yet despite Sigmund Freud’s theory on sexuality and gender duality being key stimuli for cultural enrichment and despite today’s inhibitions and focus on sexuality, nudes have become an exception in contemporary art. However, at second glance more often than not the female figure stands out as the theme of a picture – albeit abstracted, obscured and isolated from her physicality.
Albert M. Pümpel too portrays the female in isolation and in a more abstract, yet still recognisable style. The lettering in Eins sein is reminiscent of Möse (Vagina) or Großes Mal (Big time/ Large Mark). The titles pronounce what there is to see, but the remarkable and peculiar thing remains that the pictures consist of nothing more that white paint on a dark background. This demonstrates how quickly symbols are read and translated, although the picture itself suggests nothing feminine. The artist is playing with his own obsessions, which are effective when they match the viewer’s own male obsessions or when they challenge the female critic. Both pieces express an element taken from the likeness of Saskia and enlarged. The object of male desire, amplified. The female gender appears in isolation and similarly women emerge from different and separate beings. She is a mother (Maria mit Jesuskind – Mary with Baby Jesus), she is a citizen (Römerin I, -Roman Woman I), a lover (Saskia) and a saint (Caterina von Siena).
Paintings completed after 2003 correspond in their simplicity and reduction with his initial works. Yet they are more pictorial with differentiated colouration amplifying the depth of expression. Routine guides the painter’s hand as he reacquaints himself with his own alphabet after various interruptions and new beginnings, in order – so he says – to reassure himself and find the ability to continue with painting. Eyes and nose of the Römerin I create vertical symmetry that is strengthened by a diagonal running from the left to bottom right. Eyes and mouth are in equal distance to the top and bottom respectively and counterbalance the motion of the diagonal.
A moving and expressive piece. A raised head, a sensitive mouth, alert open eyes and a confident gaze. At the same time a querying glance; scepticism and fragile stability shows through. Life has marked the face with experiences, which the artist discloses through his work. Life is conflicting, with good moments and harsh setbacks. The strength found in brokenness is a consequence of life that stands for survival and defeat, but also for times in which one experiences love, strength and beauty. The painter has captured something in the Roman woman’s expression, which he shared between the two figures in Wenn zwei oder drei three decades – that is a generation – earlier.
Three decades of work, from 1976 to 2006, disclose compositional unity: The pictures are divided vertically into two halves thus creating varying degrees of dialogue through form, content and colour. The pictures are divided vertically into two halves, which communicate with each other to varying degrees through form content and colour. A short phase sees the vertical replaced by the horizontal and on some occasions symmetry is altogether absent. The first piece of 1976 is flat and sketched. It discards depth and concentrates on the brush strokes and a few compositional elements. Its very simplicity lends the picture magnitude. It is not for want of technique that the scene is bound to a dimension without depth, but results from focusing on something other than the spatial. It is the early design of a situation in which two people hoping to communicate become painfully conscious of the limitations of language and how life can make people speechless. A few gestures prove sufficient. After the academy his later works retain their simplicity and structure but gain movement, depth and differentiating colouration.
Three Dimensions of Painting
Albert M. Pümpel’s works are meditation pieces. Pictures of calm and silence. Attempts to depict conflict and reconciliation. He chooses the spiritual over the rational world, myth over science, emotion over thought. Nevertheless, the three dimensions of his paintings are emotion, rationale and the spiritual. Their aesthetic worth derives from his handling and mastery of colour and the knowledge of its effect on people as well as from the suspense and surprise within his depictions. By relating to the world they become revelation pictures. The painter shows that painting has a quality of its own which stands in relation to other arts that is beyond politics and Weltanschauung, but not without concern for others and commitment to the community. He reveals that his paintings have the potential to speak to people and point them towards the mysteries of the world, for these resemble the way his primary sketch shines through his many layers. The art is to find a dialogue with calm, silent pictures, which surpasses the mundane.
Puzzling, secretive. Decipherable, coded messages from a different, immaterial world. A world of fantasy and dreams, of people’s emotions and their visions. And yet, worlds that exist in dreams and in the imagination are real worlds.
© Hajo Eickhoff 2008