New German art - continued

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Michaela Eichwald

German art now - Michaela Eichwald

Based in Cologne, Eichwald has been an active participant in the city's art scene as artist and writer for over a decade, but her work has only recently begun to generate significant interest outside Germany.

Simply assembled, naive or even gauche in appearance, Eichwald's direct, spontaneous acts of art-making appear to confront institutionalised production while retaining the individuality often missing from so-called anti-monumental art.

German contemporary artists - Michaela Eichwald

Among the most striking of her works, for example, are sculptures formed by pouring resin into clear plastic bags (above). Packed with miscellaneous items such as hair bands, a napkin holder, coins, or even cooked mussels, they appear to act as a kind of diaristic narrative, their lumpy depths both fascinating and repellent.

Eichwald's paintings and collages are equally raw in execution. Rapidly produced, bordering, at times, on the 'bad', their vibrancy emanates from a sense of compulsive immersion in art via a stance that sets its own, fiercely independent agenda; curiously elusive, indigestible, yet worthy.

German contemporary artists - Michaela Eichwald
images © Michaela Eichwald

Gregor Hildebrandt

Gregor Hildebrandt

Hildebrandt works with film and audio - but not in conventional ways. Recorded tape is cut into lengths, then painstakingly used to produce works in which the temporal dimension of music or film is transformed into spatial and visual form.

In some cases, just a few strips of tape are added to an existing image; in others, it almost completely conceals embedded texts or objects.

Long ribbons of tape are used to create fluttering installations or wall-like facades and, more recently, to cover surfaces completely so that they take on a minimal, monolithic appearance.

The recorded content of the tape, though, of course, unplayable, is always intrinsic to the work itself, an interrelation that is often only revealed through visual clues or the work's title.


In recent years Hildebrandt has made use of further, related materials, such as vinyl records, or the covers of cassette or video tapes.

While allowing room for diversity and artistic manoeuvre, the conceptual concerns underpinning his chosen mediums remain constant.

In essence, these are narrative works, though forever doomed to remain mute potentialities. Despite this, our own knowledge of the recorded content, whether musical or filmic, can provide a kind of subjective soundtrack or screenplay against which the pieces operate.

art in Germany: Gregor Hildebrandt

Hildebrandt emphasises this repeatedly, either through his hidden references to the identity of the tape itself, or even acknowledgment of its absence.

A recent, monumental arrangement of hundreds of empty cassette cases forms a kind of inventory of his output, their former content having been used in previous works.

Other pieces, in which he begins to explore more abstract concerns, very specifically utilise blank tape, a tabula rasa.

Yet above all, these works are elegaic, representative of change, transition and the past: technologies that have all but disappeared; songs and movies either enduring or forgotten.

current German art: Gregor Hildebrandt
images © Gregor Hildebrandt

Hildebrandt's deceptively simple mirroring of the fads, failures and phases of popular culture could well be seen as analogous to the history of art itself.


Bernd Ribbeck

art in Germany now: Bernd Ribbeck

Ribbeck's small-scale works are deceptive in several ways. Firstly, although they could easily be mistaken for paintings, they are produced using materials generally associated with drawing, such as ballpoint pens, permanent markers and pen and ink (mostly on paper, but also on MDF, wood and other surfaces).

Secondly, although they appear to share the concern with modernism evidenced by many of his contemporaries, Ribbeck's sphere of reference is more esoteric than mainstream, and his style a highly personal one that has evolved logically over several years.

Inspired by artists for whom a spiritual quest was intrinsic to their work, Ribbeck's referents include figures such as Hilma af Klint, Emma Kunz, or the Crystal Chain architects, whose plans were largely unrealised, recorded simply as drawings or poetic visions.

art in Germany now: Bernd Ribbeck

Working within self-imposed limitations on format, materials and geometry, Ribbeck's professed aim is to develop a visual language in which the influence of the visionary is key; or, in the words of one critic, to "open up a fictional world without explanations, create icons without religions".

Whether or not Ribbeck achieves his purpose - and how well such loftily spiritual concerns accord with the commercial art market - is a point to consider. Yet his images speak for themselves, and are undeniably captivating.

Jewel-like in their intensity, they also contain a rare luminosity which, while due to Ribbeck's layered, cross-hatching technique, gives off an almost ethereal radiance. Perhaps he's onto something after all.

Bernd Ribbeck
images © Bernd Ribbeck

Carsten Tabel

Carsten Tabel

Trained in photography at Leipzig's Academy of Visual Arts, Tabel's images and installations engage with absurdity and the surreal.

Photographing tableaux created out of building materials, everyday items or waste, the finished works are given apparently nonsensical titles such as Baroness, or Wild Horses, a strategy that has invited comparison with Man Ray's early photographs such as La Femme, in which an egg whisk becomes a portrait of a woman.

Nevertheless, unlike much of the photographic work linked to surrealism or Dada, Tabel's images are never obviously manipulated; instead, suggestive new images are allowed to emerge from the arrangement of his chosen objects.

Carsten Tabel: new German photography
images © Carsten Tabel

It's a strategy, in fact, that bears strong similarities to the working methods of current New York favourites Darren Bader and Uri Aran and, like these artists, Tabel successfully weaves convincing aesthetic interconnections between apparently disparate items.

Ultimately, however, it's his skills as a photographer that resonate most, through beautifully wrought compositions that are as exquisite as they are intriguing.


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