Painting

The 2011 painting “Raub der Töchter” (Rape of the Daughters) is part of a series in which Frank Balve explores works of literature and the visual arts; in “2. Gesang” (Second Song) (2012) he found inspiration in Dante Alighieri’s poem “Divina Commedia”, begun ca. 1307 and in “Hesperiden 3” (2011) with Hans von Mareés’ “Hesperiden II” from 1884/87. “Rape of the Daughters” is subjected to a viewing here that can be used to understand Balve’s other paintings from this period. The painting’s title itself alludes to the art historical model that serves here: Peter Paul Rubens’ painting “Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus”, ca. 1618, housed in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich. The painting depicts a scene from Greek mythology: the abduction of the daughters of Leucippus, King of Argos, by the inseparable brothers Castor and Pollux, also known as the “Dioscuri”. Rubens’ nearly square composition is formally characterized by a rhombus – standing on one of its corners – that contains the closely intertwined group of figures. Two contradictory elements in the group are connected: the animated and dramatic action of the violent abduction of women is contained in a stable and self-contained composition, which characterizes the circular movement of the figures. This formal ‘pacifying’ of the abduction motive is reflected in the faces and gentle gestures of the two brothers, who take their victims carefully. Their movement is less a ‘tearing-away’ that it is a common dance, a picking-up, lifting-away. The girls’ faces and body language are similarly ambivalent. Receding movements and fear, mixed with more relaxed gestures, seem to express expectation and understanding. The formal and contextual character of the image – in all its complexity and diversity – seems to be the basis and momentum for Frank Balve’s own examination of the subject. As a counterpoint to Rubens’ old master version of the event, which can be considered a prototype of a Baroque composition, Balve translates the theme into an almost orgasmic explosion of colors in which all images are veiled and dissolve. The paint is not applied with a brush, but rather thrown directly onto the canvas with an expressive gesture of the hand. Yet, what started out as a seemingly spontaneous outburst of force proves, on closer inspection, to be a well thought out artistic intention. Balve usually develops his paintings from sketches, which facilitate a more or less flexible execution of the preconceived idea. Thus, his abstract compositions are based, from beginning to completion, on a concept that runs like a thread through his work. The flesh tone color spectrum in the center of the image corresponds to the flesh tones of the figures in Rubens’ work. Similarly, the center of the image is set against a background of brown and blue tones, framing it and hinting at a division of the space into foreground, middle ground and background. The rising and falling diagonals of pervasive color surfaces serve within the primary image structure as vectors in different directions and find their counterpart in the foreground. Through the targeted mixture of paint and colors and the deliberate thinning of the binding agent, Balve also influences the fluidity and density of the paint, leaving how it flows partly to chance.

The thick application of paint creates a textured surface that cracks in places while drying, revealing the underlying layers. The visual impression of the image surface, with its tactile qualities and numerous overlays and gradients of color, is almost a sensory overload for the eye. This effect is apparent in other works by Balve, which are also based on art historical models. Balve’s artistic expression is comparable to that of the Abstract Expressionists and has strong parallels to European “Informal” art. Balve’s belief in the transformation of the artist into a shaman, a kind of medium in the ‘mindless’ stage from which sub-conscious art flows unimpeded from the mind, is juxtaposed by a contrary belief in the artist’s will to control material in order to achieve specific results. When and in what part of the creative process the psychomotor and intuitive side dominates the cerebral controlled side – and vice versa – is hard to determine in the resulting works. Yet, this uncertainty about how the works develop also seems to be intended by Balve.
In a further step, Balve drastically juxtaposes the effect of diagonal and vertical color vectors, which divide the almost square painting in five equal horizontal segments. The painting’s grid-like effect functions as a clear delineation that continually breaks the viewer’s gaze, deflecting it. As an almost inevitable consequence, Balve counters in his work the rhythm of the holistic composition by Rubens – created by placing the circular-shaped action into a square – with a horizontal pattern that breaks up the picture plane and simultaneously soothes its abstract structures. This sharp geometrization can be interpreted as a symbol of the here and now. Such an intervention in an old master masterpiece would probably have been regarded not only as an anachronism, but also as scandalous and destructive by Rubens’ contemporaries.
Balve’s goal is not the genesis and modelling of individual characters and their interactions within the meaning of the epic narrative presentation of a topic as with Rubens, whose image has been repeatedly interpreted as a political allegory and pictorial legitimacy of absolutist power. Instead, his attitude is ambivalent here as well: his deep admiration for the icons of art history – including for the aforementioned masterpieces by Rubens and Hans von Marées – and his fascination with the stories these images tell, are often also rooted in childhood experiences.

In contrast, the development of his own profile as an artist and person is associated with an inexorable process of realization and, thus, with an irreversible imprinting. The attempt to unite his subconscious with animal and vegetative nature, in order to draw from experiences residing in that unknown place and release untapped potential, may have been a trigger for Balve’s confrontation with classical art works. During this process, he seems to have been guided by the knowledge that, “through artistic perfection (…) as well as the prestige they [classical artworks] are awarded due to a long tradition of uncritical admiration, conventions [are] established that obstruct an unbiased encounter [with these]”.  Balve’s impulse may well have been to neutralize the ‘unnatural’ elevation of the artwork and its detachment from the context of its creator’s experiences – hindering the pure enjoyment of a work – in order to establish a continuity between art, experience, and ordinary events. Thus, Balve’s approach represents the questioning of his own role and power as an image creator and a personal, even aggressive, confrontation with the substance of the paint, as well as his probing of the boundaries between the genres of painting, sculpture and performance and object art. This interdisciplinary approach is also reflected in his installations, often enormous in size, in which Frank Balve symbiotically unites various artistic media, such as light and video projections, photography, painting and performance. Art becomes an expression of the experienced and lived, comprehended and relayed in all facets, thus referring directly back to life.

Jan T. Wilms

untitled (wind)

PAINTING | INSTALLATION MENSCHENLEER | PAPER CELLULAR ON CANVAS | 80 x 100 CM |  JULY 2016 |

die zeugen

PAINTING | PAPER CELLULAR / TILES / WOOD| 94 X 125 CM | JULY 2016 |

heilung

PAINTING | PAPER CELLULAR / TILES / WOOD| 94 X 125 CM | APRIL 2016 |

banquet extrakt (north / east / south / west )

PAINTING | PAPER CELLULAR / TILES / WOOD | NORTH AND WEST 2 X (180 X 140 CM) / EAST AND SOUTH 2 X (200 X 200 CM) | FEBRUARY 2015 |

day lecture

PAINTING | 170 X 130 CM | ACRYLIC PAINT AND HOUSEHOLD PAINT ON CANVAS | FEBRUARY 2013 |

night lecture

PAINTING | 170 X 130 CM | ACRYLIC PAINT AND HOUSEHOLD PAINT ON CANVAS | FEBRUARY 2013 |

lesung

PAINTING | 80 X 125 CM | ACRYLIC PAINT AND HOUSEHOLD PAINT ON CANVAS | JANUARY 2013 |

 

apartment east 10

PAINTING | BATH | FRAMED PICTURE | 60 X 80 CM |  TILES / GROUT / SOOT | OCTOBER 2012 |

apartment west 10

PAINTING | ROOM | FRAMED PICTURE | 155 X 111,5 CM | WALLPAPER / ACRYLIC / GLUE / EARTH / SOOT / PLEXTOL / PAPER PULP ON WOOD| OCTOBER 2012 |

apartment room 1-9

PAINTING | LEFT | APARTMENT ROOM 1-9 | FRAMED PICTURES | 24 X 24 CM | WALLPAPER / ACRYLIC / GLUE / EARTH / SOOT / PLEXTOL / PAPER PULP ON WOOD | MIDDLE | APARTMENT BATH 1-9 | FRAMED PICTURES | 24 X 24 CM | TILES / GROUT / SOOT | RIGHT | APARTMENT 1-9 | FRAMED INKJETPRINT | 24 X 24 CM| OCTOBER 2012 |

passage 2

PAINTING | 1,4 X 2 M | ACRYLIC PAINT AND HOUSEHOLD PAINT ON CANVAS | AUGUST 2012 |

passage 3

PAINTING | 1,4 X 2 M | ACRYLIC PAINT AND HOUSEHOLD PAINT ON CANVAS | AUGUST 2012 |

passage 4

PAINTING | 140 X 400 CM | ACRYLIC PAINT AND HOUSEHOLD PAINT ON CANVAS | AUGUST 2012 |

zweiter gesang (second song)

PAINTING | ACRYLIC PAINT AND HOUSEHOLD PAINT ON CANVAS / WOOD / PAPER CELLULAR | FRAMED PICTURE 200 x 365 CM |GATE 350 X 380 CM | JUNE 2012 |

 

Dante Alighieri’s epic poem Commedia, begun in ca. 1307, serves as the framework for Frank Balve’s installation “23-29.06. (Second Song) 2012”. In Zweiter Gesang, the poet begins his journey into the underworld; yet he hesitates before he passes through the Gates of Hell and confronts the suffering souls in Purgatory. The Divine Comedy resonates only indirectly to the installation by, serving, rather, as the catalyst for the exploration of the material. A frame construction seals off the area above and lends the work an architectural character. It resembles the soffit of a portal and refers to another art historical point of reference: Auguste Rodin‘s “Gates of Hell” from 1877 to 1917, a monumental bronze sculpture, which shares an affiliation with Dante‘s description of hell, purgatory and paradise. While Rodin represents human suffering figuratively, Balve translates the theme into an abstraction. The canvas is covered with a dense, structure of color splatters, streaks and drips, and we can only vaguely imagine the original dark back-ground. Although dominated by a dull and gloomy impression, in its complexity the lush paint appears intoxicating, almost orgiastic. The choreography of colors is not based on a conventional iconography, but on a symbolism that the observer must ultimately approach intuitively, despite the fact that it suggests associations – with its transition from skin tones and light to cool dark hues – with the theme of the Gates of Hell passage. The numerous layers of paint overlap like sedimentary layers. In the horizontal and vertical gradients, the temporality of the creative process becomes comprehensible, and, especially in the flesh-colored areas, the color breaks up and reveals the underlying layers. Even the title places the installation in time by listing both the space of production time, as well as the birth and death days of Frank Balve‘s teacher, Norbert Prangenberg, to whom the work is dedicated. SO

 

glas case no.1 | no.2 | no.3

PAINTING | INSTALLATION 120 | PAPER PULP PLASRIC | GLAS CASE NR. 1 / NR.2 / NR.3 | 2 X ACRYLIC PAINT AND HOUSEHOLD PAINT ON CANVAS | 42,6 x 30,3 CM | MAY 2012 |

 

 

financier | präsident

PAINTING | INSTALLATION 120 | FINANCIER | 50 x 27 CM | PRÄSIDENT | 80 x 39 CM | ACRYLIC PAINT AND HOUSEHOLD PAINT ON CANVAS | MAY 2012 |

 

 

bischoff | herzog

PAINTING | INSTALLATION 120 | BISCHOFF | 100 x 65 CM | HERZOG | 100 x 88 CM  | ACRYLIC PAINT AND HOUSEHOLD PAINT ON CANVAS | MAY 2012 |

 

 

die moral

PAINTING | 4  X ACRYLIC PAINT AND HOUSEHOLD PAINT ON CANVAS | 80 x 125 CM | MARCH 2012 |

 

 

erster gesang

INSTALLATION (PAINTING) | ACRYLIC PAINT AND HOUSEHOLD PAINT ON CANVAS | 42 CANVAS | 15,00 X 2,80 X 4,00 M | OCTOBER 2011 |

In the room installation “Erster Gesang”, which he wrote especially for firstlines, refers to the artist on the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. To this main work of the Italian poet, Frank Balve wrote a 15 x 2.8 meter large, 42 individual canvases and an audiovisual installation, which can be seen on 15 monitors, which is to be surpassed by the visitors.
Frank Balves attempting to accommodate Dante’s dances into the 95 square meters of the gallery seems to be dared, but after an intensive examination it emerges as an excellent, abstract production of the literary classics. Through an intensive color symbolism, strong contrasts in the handling of the rooms, exciting visions and the change of media, tempo and style, the crossing on the Styx is actually made perceptible.

In order that I might flee this great misfortune,
That you lead me to where you said,
So that of the holy Peter door I see
And those whom you portray as so sad. –
Then he went, and I followed his steps.

– Dante, Divine Comedy, first song

gerechtigkeitszyklus

PAINTING | ACRYLIC PAINT AND HOUSEHOLD PAINT ON CANVAS | 2 X (100 X 80 CM) / 1 X (80 X 100 CM) | MAY 2011 |

hesperiden

PAINTING| 5 X ACRYLIC PAINT AND HOUSEHOLD PAINT ON CANVAS | 80 X 247 CM | MAY 2011 |

raub der töchter

PAINTING | 5 X ACRYLIC PAINT AND HOUSEHOLD PAINT ON CANVAS | 160 x 28 CM | APRIL 2011 |