Jens Peter Koerver: Color, Colors

Seeing Paintings
At first, from a distance each of these paintings seems colored, monochrome, only to gradually become a different painting as we approach it step by step, with each subsequent gaze. That one initial color, the color we departed from at our first glance, has become more differentiated. At the edge of the picture surface it is more intense, denser, sometimes glowing like an outline of color. Then again, lingering at the edge of the picture surface, it seems more transparent, lighter, a band, an enclosure. And at the center of the surface, we can make out an area condensing this color again. This single initial color is already more than just one, exuding a presence in diverse states. Something else mixes into the one color, and a feeling of ambiguity arises, a minimal friction (like a resistance that may not be wholly grasped or defined). And a colorfulness grows from out of the one color. Obviously, other colors blend in, an increasing coloration. And thus, yellow and also blue, play into the bright green, and in a blue we find hints of red, in the quick, clear red there is another red, lots of different reds, perhaps also something akin to orange, and possibly a further color far remote from red, a complementary color. First light is shed on the matter when we take a look at the narrow sides of the painting. Here we can recognize the traces of the colors we previously only suspected (and maybe even a few more as well). Similar to an (incomplete) index, this view – which expands the picture from a more or less narrow frontal view to 180° – reveals in spots and runs several of the individual shades that go into the makeup of the total colorfulness of the work. Such a perspective, only gained by moving back and forth in front of the painting, causes an expansion of the experiences that may be had with it. Moreover, it makes relative the dominance of the mere picture surface with respect to the picture object as a whole.

Seen head on, however, these additional other colors cover the one predominant color, or they may be embedded in it, or even underlie it. They modify it delicately, enhance or muddy it and yet they are scarcely more than a whiff. Or they may be present, exerting their effect as miniscule particles. Or, similar to a diffuse and discrete flocculation, they lie hidden in the midst of the color, appearing and disappearing again, emerging here and there. And so, the eye is unsure; a second look does not make us sure of what we have seen. It rather spontaneously transforms into a different manner of looking, a looking further (with the colors there is only a beginning, but no end). The colorfulness of Dorothee Joachim’s works is evasive anyway. Blurry, the attempts to define what we have seen remain provisional, since the coloring of each of these paintings is this and that, full of ambiguity. In addition to the relatively clear, known colors, the pictures feature peripheral colors and colors between the colors, restrained hues, almost extinguished – gray, but also green, blue-green, and also… Dissidents of conventional color, not always pleasant or friendly; some remaining (initially) closed; they withdraw, may stay foreign, unrecognizable, allegedly poor colors. And there are those that have a presence from the very beginning, glowing, light, and hence more approachable initially, but neither do these turn out to be free of confusion or contamination.

Color is not coloration alone. It is also the material paint. Its materiality varies and contributes to the individuality of the color creation of each painting. Some reveal an extremely fine craquelure, and the grain of the pigment may show up as well. The painting’s color may have a faint shine or be matte, almost blunt… It is never neutral or characterless, but rather reveals itself to have been realized in the painting, a colorfulness to be realized in the viewing process.

Painting paintings
Dorothee Joachim always develops her works in larger groups, varying the formats within a group in recent years. Since 2001 she has been working largely on mdf-panels coated with a prefabricated interim layer of melamine resin. Over this she applies a careful grounding, free of any imperfections during application. For the artist, this also constitutes the point where the painting actually begins, something she describes as an “accumulation of attention”, an act of gradual enrichment. She works on the panel itself when it is attached to the wall. The colors – highly thinned acrylics and pigments – she paints in transparent glazes with the brush, applying them as minimally colored, transparent skin, evenly and as free of traces as possible; excess paint is removed again at the lower edge of the painting. After the drying of the respective layer, the panel is turned 180°, and then again another 90°, to ensure that all the picture zones are balanced. In order to maintain the homogeneity of what has been painted, the picture surface is smoothed occasionally by intermittent sanding during the work process – the repeated applications of new layers of paint. Nevertheless, a completely unified colored picture field does not result from this process. As a result of the material and production, the aforementioned framing lines and narrow bands are what rather come about, also those telltale spots of color on the sides.

On principle the three primary colors are used in each painting – yellow, blue and red in various variations – with orange and viridian green being a part of Joachim’s range of colors as well. There is no black, however, which means that all of her shades of gray result exclusively from the colors that have been added. Since 2009, the artist has also been using zinc white, which creates a light and pastel-like colorfulness. The exact composition of the color tones varies from group to group. The first working steps lead from yellow to blue and finally to red. Because of this process, the paintings of each group all look alike initially, but then they gradually develop their individual, one-of-a-kind coloration due to the differently ordered successions, repetitions, and densities of the painted colors in the individual work. Nonetheless, the paintings that come about in the group relationship all share family similarities. The works that have been created parallel to one another indicate a visible color materiality that connects them all, a mutual color character (since they share the same color-DNA), which we might summarize as “pastel-like and light” or “gray and restrained”. This helps us to understand Dorothee Joachim’s designation of the individual groups as “generations”.

The sum total of all of the artist’s color pictures might be described as work on a continuum, as a visible excerpt from the multitude of imaginable, or at least thinkable, colors. From this point of view, each individual painting points to this imaginary whole. According to this possibility, the origin of each realized individual work of color also has an inherent totality, since theoretically, all perceivable nuances of color may be developed from the interplay of the colors used. Such completeness is not the endeavor of Dorothee Joachim. Her concern is rather for in-depth research, placing individual zones of possible color before our eyes. In doing this, temporary interests, changing curiosity, subjective decisions, artistic intuition and the artist’s unorthodox joy of colors play a decisive role. Open to the diversity of the coloring, with each work, and with each “generation”, she expands the view to new, different, heretofore unseen colors in this form.

Color has always been present. It is self-understood and ever-present, everyday, and therefore, often it gets overlooked, no attention being paid to it. Color is coloration, a nice addition to things. But color is essential to painting. A painted picture constitutes itself with color, of course. And it goes without saying that a painting may only present color or colors without representing anything else by means of these colors. Color is itself the subject and object (material and theme, question and answer) of painting; only this and nothing else is being offered, i.e. there are no under-lining or animating titles, no flanking theories, no anecdotal text to accompany it. In her painting, Dorothee Joachim has made color her concern. Possibly, it has a pre-history that goes back to the height of the Classical Modern (a plausible beginning here might be the three monochrome panels “Pure Red Color, Pure Yellow Color, Pure Blue Color”, done by Alexander Rodchenko in 1921, conceived as the end of painting). If we examine various omens, diverse contexts, and changing issues, we may trace color throughout the 20th century and up to the present day as something that pursued all but a straight line in the history of painting. For Dorothee Joachim’s work, this is a fact that does not exclude an impetus of certain picture colorations from entirely different areas of the history of art. Likewise, it does not exclude anything else she has ever seen and subjectively experienced in the rest of the real world. For her painting, color is the epitome of fascination. Limiting herself to this entails intensification through concentration. The painted picture becomes the site for encountering color. Color has always been there. But only painting has the capacity to make us aware of it.

Color, Light, Duration
Light is the companion to this painting. It is the light, in which the picture is viewed, that tinges the color (albeit, a yellowish picture stays yellow) and makes it visible in the first place. Light, if it is daylight, is not neutral, but rather the changing medium in which our viewing takes place (it is also the prerequisite for it to happen). Depending on the respective prevailing light, one of the possibilities inherent to the painting will reveal itself, and in this respect, light – be it as good or bad as the place, the space, allows for – is the co-producer of the painting. It shows the individual work by giving the painted colors a cooler or warmer cast, making them clear or diffuse, emphasizing spectral components, shutting out others.

Just as Dorothee Joachim’s paintings are daylight paintings (even though they may have also been made by artificial light), they are long-term pictures, and only reveal themselves gradually over time. If we desire to get to know them, we must be around them, giving them time, and viewing them in the light of the various times of the day and year, when it is intensively bright, but also in the waning light of dusk. Each light situation reveals other nuances, which means as well: They can never all be there at once. They are there as opportunities, as moments – the whole picture would be the sum of all these various opportunities, these manners of appearance, these realizations caused by the light.

True Value
The title True Value comes from a chance find. During a trip through North America, the artist came across a paint and hardware shop with this trust-inspiring name. It stuck in her memory, becoming the title of an exhibition and vital for this publication. At first, this catch-phrase formulation of “true value” sounds hollow, as if yearning for the irony to be broken up. But in these times of comprehensive, by no means always successful economization, the phrase combination seems refractory once again, and points out the status art and culture hold.

In addition, this title also provides various ties to the theme of color. A widespread system of color physics exists, based on the concepts of chroma (a combination of hue and color saturation), hue (the tone of the color) and value (the degree of brightness), value also referring to the nuance of the color. In Dorothee Joachim’s work, the concern is for precisely these fine gradations of color values. She tares the nuances with layers of paint glazes, until the true (picture color) value sets in, the painting having found its own color quality, and thus becoming a counterpart.

In Dorothee Joachim’s paintings, color may be seen as colors, no more and no less (nothing otherwise, otherwise nothing). Gazing at them, our view experiences its capacity for colorist nuance. As an essential faculty of the eye, this differentiated way of looking at color likewise corresponds to color as the essential material of painting. The care and accuracy in the gaze, its undivided attention, are essential forms of appreciating value.