PRESS 2006

Juli 2006, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung


Dieter Mammel in der Frankfurter Galerie Hübner

Einen Melancholiker mochte man ihn eigentlich seit je nennen. Gleich, ob Dieter Mammel in seinen grünstichigen "family works" die eigene Kindheit aufarbeitete oder ob er mit den "magenta lovers" vom ersten bis zum letzten Kuß, vom leidenschaftlich erlebten ersten Mal bis zur finalen Erschöpfung der Körper - und der Gefühle - glühende, wie die Farbe auf dem saugenden Grund hier verfließende, dort sich verdichtende Bilder für die Liebe fand: Die Erinnerung, die diese Malerei ganz wesentlich zum Thema hat, sie will nicht allzu lange bleiben. Zeigt sich hier gnädig, sanft und schmeichlerisch, dort geheimnisvoll und trügerisch und an so manchen Stellen gänzlich blind. Und löst sich schließlich an den Rändern auf. Nun freilich hat er für den Ton, der seine stets monochrome Malerei, die Farbe der Melancholie selbst gewählt. "Feeling blue", so der Titel der aktuellen Serie, die derzeit in der Frankfurter Galerie Hübner zu sehen ist, ist Mammels "blaue Periode". Mit Bildern, die das ernüchternde Erwachen zeigen, nach dem Zerplatzen flüchtig-süßer Träume. Denn die "Liebesversuche", als die der 1965 geborene Berliner Künster seine in Aquarell und Tusche auf die rohe Leinwand geworfenen "magenta lovers" noch charakterisiert hat, sie scheinen allesamt gescheitert und desillusioniert. Was bleibt, ist Einsamkeit, das Versprechen der Malerei und stille, leuchtendblaue Bilder. Womöglich muß man sich Dieter Mammel als einen glücklichen Menschen vorstellen.

Christoph Schütte
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Feuilleton vom 10. Juli 2006

Februar 2006, Thanassis Frissiras Gallery

Six postulations for an exhibition in three chromatic parts (and three references to films)

Dieter Mammel divides the works he presents at the Thanassis Frissiras Gallery into three parts on the basis of their colour. The green series has an intensely mnemonic character - return to childhood and meditation. The magenta series (a colour which dominated his previous work) examines the issue of love as a mirror. The third, blue series is the most existential of the three, being about loneliness and self-confidence. As all this implies, the painting of Dieter Mammel is strongly monochromatic - a feature which the artist seems prepared to defend in the most fanatical manner. His main obsession here is to detach thoughts from words and incorporate them into images. Here are some postulations about the role of his painting…

Painting as shadow

Plato's allegory about visual representation as an indirect shadow and a reflection on a wall seems to continue to trouble the course of the image in the twenty-first century. Dieter Mammel bases his art on the creative relationship of tracing shadows and painting (as it appears most clearly in his work "The man who tries to paint over his own shadow"), as well as on the fleeting, shadowy nature of photography as a record of memory. If the Platonic allegory about representation and art were a cave whose inmates could only see the shadows of things, Mammel's own allegory would be the painterly construction as a science of memory and the visible. If painting was devised with the aim (in part) of accurately recording the truth, the invention of photography left no doubt that it would take over this particular function of painting. At first it was generally believed that what the photographic surface depicted was accurate and that the medium itself was "honest". A large part of the newfound fascination with photography and of the fledging philosophy which was developed to serve its aims was based on the
"I was there" concept. Thus photography functioned as documentation, hypotheses were proven by using photographs as evidence and public opinion was shaped by photo-reporting. Yet long before the advent of digital photo-graphy it had become clear that the photographic "truth" was a highly questionable thing. Perhaps the first 150 years of photography went by as an interlude of false innocence. As we are gradually entering the post-photographic era, the photographic image needs to redefine its ontological identity, away from the distinction between reality and non-reality. Dieter Mammel's painting shows a strange affinity with that of his compatriot Gerhard Richter, albeit through a different method. Both artists base their painting on a seemingly strong bond with photography (in Mammel's case, with film and video as well); yet both end up acting as two of the most reliable supporters of the medium of painting today. And both of them exorcise what is perhaps the greatest danger(?) for visual art these days -that of degenerating into intangible "images" for reproduction in magazines, posters and books or on the internet- by returning to materiality, scale, gesture, texture…

Painting as crime

Darkness. Images, photographs of people from some unknown past emerge through the blackness. They pass before the viewer and a gust seems to give them life before they are lost again in the darkness. Here the frozen immobility of the photograph is subverted by an imperceptible breath. If photography represents an arrested movement, it can always be resumed, even if it is only briefly, in a futile illusion of restoring things which are forever gone. The experience from this revocation of memory lasts only shortly, as much as an inhalation and exhalation. These images belong in the past and have no place in the present, so they must perish. These photos of an existence which you remember less well when you see them than when you only think back on it, as Proust wrote in Remembrance of Things Past.
Dieter Mammel seems to return to the scene of the crime -the realm of memory- via an assortment of family snapshots which he coverts into painterly act. The Viennese actionist Rudolf Schwarzkogler wrote about Malerei als verbrechen [painting as crime]; a little later he perpetrated the ultimate artistic crime, first castrating himself and then committing suicide. Mammel commits his own crime by manipulating memory, going back to where everything started. Just like the restless photographer in Antonioni's
Blow-up, Mammel bends over the slightest detail of the image and deconstructs it…

Painting as a ruin

The main thing which modernism destroyed (only to reconstruct) in painting is probably the human form. It was this, after all, which typified the entire edifice of Western art and its values: harmony, aesthetic, hierarchy... The painting of Picasso from Cubism onwards is a consistently good example of how the human figure becomes almost unrecognisable but still functions as a representation of man. The twentieth century contains the entire spectrum of the breakdown of the face and the body. The case of Arnulf Rainer is characteristic in terms of the use of the medium as well. The artist literally smudges the photographed human figure. What the invention of photography was able to provide with exhaustive precision, the painterly gesture dissolved and obliterated. The painting of Dieter Mammel, true to the vision of modernism, breaks down the image. The final result is a fragment of the original image, with the representational element shattered to pieces. Just as in the film Haxan (1922) of Benjamin Christensen, Mammel's painting gives the impression of a primordial origin lost in the depths of time. The surface of the painting bears the marks of a dive into dark places, going beyond description or the provision of information…

Painting as delirium

If modernity in all its manifestations shows an Oedipus-like urge to demolish something, in Mammel's case this "something" has to be the symbol of the family. The German painter deconstructs this archetype of order, security and happiness and takes it on a delirious course. Passion; memories of passion; moments of sexual pleasure and climax which are over, gone forever; fragments of something which no longer exists. In our societies lovemaking, the ultimate way of approaching another person, has become a narcissistic confirmation of the ego. Total alienation. To Dieter Mammel, Nicolas Roeg's description of the stages before, during and after the sexual act in the film Don't Look Now is the archetypal depiction of the void left behind by passion. His own painting recalls isolated moments of erotic fever which have now acquired a character of funereal memories. The images of absolute bliss or passion contain already the cracks which will bring about its end. An idealised memory together with the bleak present, pleasure and the sense of futility that follows, images and their death. And all this is floating in the fluid, wet setting of all his works…

Painting as trauma

The violence of birth permeates the painting of Mammel, particularly the green series. The liquid element which is a fixture in his art assumes here the form of amniotic fluid. Every figure that appears in his works -not just the newborn babies he paints but even ourselves- is drenched by this feeling of primordial return to the womb. A possible parallel can be drawn here with the photos of Andres Serrano, where everything is floating in a setting of blood and sperm. The obviously Freudian reference in the art of the German painter transcends the cliches of psychoanalysis to assume a violent form, the sense of a wound. A standard reference point in these works is that of a constant flashback, a perpetual return to the past, and most crucially to the decisive years of infancy and early childhood (here is Freud, again). Mammel's return to these years seems to be traumatic. The snapshots of family moments become here a visual thriller where nothing can be taken for granted and everything seems vaguely sinister. In the painting of Dieter Mammel the most commonplace everyday event is swathed in a mystical atmosphere…

Painting as painting

A birth, a baby in its mother's arms, a nude woman, a passionate kiss, the sexual act: all these lost everyday moments from some unspecified past have now become painting. This painting is equally fleeting, imperfect. In a strange way, Dieter Mammel's works recall the "not made by hands" image on the Holy Shroud of Turin: his figures are dematerialised, fluid, dissolved in the humidity of the painting and heavily charged with the notion of memory. Let us put aside for a moment the question of holiness. If the prehistory of these forms can be traced to the faith of the devotees of Catholicism as to the authenticity of the Shroud, "the first photographic phenomenon in history", a true "revelation" of photography as a medium of idolatry, today's visual culture has driven this phenomenon out of control. Paradoxically, the paintings of Dieter Mammel also convey a sense of transparency and immateriality, yet
-as we said before- they persistently defend materiality and the differentiation from the "image". They function like a mirage which is then brought back to order. They bring us before something which does not exist in this dimension, something which we cannot tell with certainty whether it is here or somewhere else and we only got a quick, sneaking glimpse. And the images die. Once they take shape they die, having had the time to etch memories or feelings. The issue here is the moment of time -a palimpsest of life- to be destroyed, led to disappearance and oblivion - an image which talks about the destruction, the disappearance of images. Works in limbo; human lives, memories which are already of the past. What remains as memory is the painting…

Thanassis Moutsopoulos