In his artistic work, Frank Balve continuously combines various facets of painting, photography, video, performance and installation into a complex overall picture. In his 3rd solo exhibition at the Galerie MaxWeberSixFriedrich he shows a series of new paintings, a sculpture and a sound installation.
1986, the year Frank Balve was born, is an eventful year full of technical achievements and misfortunes. The American space probe Voyager 2 sends new images from space, a few days later the space shuttle Challenger breaks apart shortly after launch and leaves no survivors behind. The Chernobyl disaster follows in spring and Russia shoots the Mir space station into space.
There is an atmosphere of departure, not only for the artist, but also for the world. The works in the exhibition, newly created in 2018, also mark a turning point in Balve’s oeuvre: after an intensive preoccupation with the gaze inside and the subject of portraiture, Balve’s gaze now wanders into the distance. In this context, the large-format paintings with oil and acrylic on canvas (80 x 100 cm to 150 x 200 cm) can be read as abstract landscapes. Even though the artist remains true to abstraction in painting, there is a radical innovation in technique. Before applying the paint, some canvases were lavishly coated with a special paper pulp technique, which Balve had already used in earlier, primarily installative works. The limy white, porous and shell-like surface remains largely free here and in its penetrating and pure materiality forms a strong aesthetic counterpart to the coloured surfaces.
While Frank Balve used to literally throw the paint onto the canvas, he now lets it flow thickly onto a spatula-like basic structure on the canvas. Up to 100 liters can be found on a picture carrier. Frank Balve controls the drying process – acrylic dries quickly, oil very slowly – very consciously and allows cracks and crackling in the surface. The process of the paper first absorbing the paint and then bleeding it out again also refers to the artist’s unbroken interest in the construction and deconstruction of states and materials. The breaking open of the inner life of the canvas demonstrates the theme of structure and depth that is stored throughout all his works.
In the works in which the color completely fills the pictorial space, there is no paper structure in the background. Here, dynamic-pastose colour gradients dominate, often with a marbling effect, which branch out more and more finely and then dissolve completely in a different colour. Red, black and white predominate, silver and gold are also used for the first time. The painting process can be traced through the process of letting the paint flow.
The theme of landscape in painting shows itself in many different ways in the course of (art) history. From the decorative fragmentary depiction of nature in the Middle Ages to the thematic upgrading in Dutch book illumination to heroic ideal landscapes and the unity of man and nature in Romanticism – landscape always functions as a mood barometer of man and often represents the pure beauty of the divine. In addition, landscape painting further illustrates, from the dissolution of the landscape by William Turner to contemporary art, the changing, sometimes ambivalent relationship that man has to his surroundings and environment. This sensual experience and dark poetics can also be seen in Balve’s abstract thought landscapes.
Also on view in the exhibition is the sculpture “Fliessende Ruhe” (“Flowing Peace”). Frank Balve used an old iron bed frame from the 1930s as a sieve by placing it in a tub and – similar to the other paintings – letting the paint drip from above through the frame onto an underlying canvas in a performative action. The old bed with its worn feathers and chain links functions as an associative representative of dreams, torture, life and death.
The exhibition is completed by the sound sculpture and sound performance “Wolkenbruch” (Cloudburst). As an intangible sound landscape, it complements the abstract visual landscapes with air set in motion. Sound is always in motion and is defragmented by permanent modelling, destruction and distortion. In this way, “Wolkenbruch” completes the atmosphere of departure that can be felt everywhere and enables the visitor to perceive an undreamt-of depth on a visual and acoustic level.
Anna Wondrak, November 2018