by Klaus Honnef
In rendering visible what refuses to be caught by visibility, Art has always been able to get off the ground, no matter whether it was serving the purposes of society or experimenting with horizons of its own choosing. Even when Art ran through a phase labelled as “naturalism” or “realism”, only a few artists would identify with Hippolyte Taine’s, the famous historian’s, postulate that in describing empirical reality, the narrator ought to deny his own existence. To analyse and to apply the laws of visual perception for their own ends was their ambition. They were not content to simulate the visible on a plain surface. In earlier epochs of Western culture they exalted the ideal appearance of the human body in both a physical and a metaphysical sense. In the Middle ages they represented the heavenly salvation of the virtuous and the torments of hell inflicted on the damned in luminous colours and in the most graphic manner. At that, the description of hell produced in many cases the more convincing results; probably because the empirical experience of the times acted as a stimulant on the artist’s imagination. Only when rulers sent ambassadors to sound possibilities of marriage did they enjoin it on the painter accompanying them that he was to represent the prospective bride as close to nature as possible and under no circumstances after the usual manner of court portraits. In such cases, the ruler wished to arrive at his own well-founded judgment. Such simulacra were not considered in terms of artistic value, and only few have survived. Nonetheless, the question of the difference between image and simulacrum laid the ground for the polemic, carefully sustained far into the post-modern era, which concerns the question whether or not artistic value should be conceded to photography – although modernism had started when photography had added a technological variant to and extended the spectrum of traditional worlds of imagery.
- Klaus Honnef
for catalogue: Stephan Reusse „Works 2003-1982“