Gabriele Uelsberg: Green Light
in: Dorothee Joachim, exhibition catalogue, Kunstmuseum Alte Post, Mülheim/Ruhr 2001
In seeking to give an interpretation to Dorothee Joachim’s canvases, one is often tempted to list the considerable number of working steps, to flush out her original painting techniques, or to describe the consistency of colours and pigments and the duration involved in developing th works. It seems that the first reflex in considering the works of Dorothee Joachim is guided by the understandable wish to relate the incomprehensible and indescribable element in these paintings back to their purely material and factual conditions, and so to bring what we see back into the realm of the familiar and the known. Words alone, however, will not let us pigeonhole the artistic work of Dorothee Joachim, and we must accept in describing it that the works themselves will continually slip out of our grasp. In full knowledge of this dilemma, I nevertheless venture the following approach.
In so doing I am aided by the thesis:
Dorothee Joachim is not a painter, but a plastic artist.
The artist’s creations are not paintings in the real sense, but coloured spatial sculptures, which – like bodies – comport themselves in the room, consistently changing their presence and appearance depending on the standpoint of the observer. The corporeal aspect inherent in her works is not least a result of the partisular working technique which she subjects them to, and which allows her to steer clear of a subjective stylistic signature. In this way she more or less neutralises the process of creation, so to speak giving it form and direction from without. Over the course of the cration process the works attain a considerable degree of plasticity and corporeality, despite an almost complete lack of three-dimensionality – only the body of stretcher and cotton is concrete. Their room-filling "volume" develops at a microscopic level and comes about as a result of the three-dimensinal power of colour which is perceptible, although at first not rationally comprehensible, to the observer.
How does the artist achieve such an intensive optical volume? Dorothee Joachim’s canvases can comprise as many as one hundred or more paint layers, which she applies to the cotton background. Materially, however, the layers that finally cover the painting support take up no space whatsoever. For the sum of these many extremely thin glazes does not result in a thick or hardened skin of paint. Through repeated layering of the finest particles and pigments, a microscopically fine colour relief comes into being. This is only perceived as monochrome at first glance and from a distance. When one takes a closer look at the works of Dorothee Joachim, an infinite number of ridges and fractal structures can be made out on the surface, where the acrylic emulsion, which has been very thinly dissolved in water, has thickened and concentrated in untold different ways.
Through this "depositing process", a paint structure is created on each canvas which is so interwoven with the surface structure that various colour tones and nuances become apparent. The different colour resonances which the artist achieves in this way are endless in their multiplicity, although only the primary colours red, yellow and blue are used. The succession of layers, the intensity of blends and the process itself vary from canvas to canvas, resulting in a colourful tonality which gives a unique appearance to each individual picture. The structures around which the colour pigments thicken are so spread out over the surface of the canvas that they work against each other and every compositional or serial form – they are in this context fully informal. This in turn allows the artist and the viewer alike to concentrate on the pure colour-space. Joachim achieves this effect in part by continually turning the paintings at right angles and upside down during the painting process, thus avoiding regularities that would divert attention from the underlying creative theme.
Working in this way, Dorothee Joachim is able to render experienceable the plastic quality of light and the physical effect of colour in space, and to establish a relation between them and thze observer. The microscopic inner structure, which if anything could be compared with an "all-over" pattern, has the effect of bringing about a prismatic transparency in the glazes. These reveal to the onlooker an unlimited number of facets, and depending on the incidence of light and the observer’s standpoint they seem to dissolve once more into the hundreds of layers of paint that went to make them up. The wealth of colour which is captured in these at first glance seemingly colourless and minimalistic canvases seems to derive from the whole spectrum of colours in nature. In the course of observation the colour attains a corporeal quality which stands in contrast to the first impression evoked by the works. Dorothee Joachim attains this special effect of colour and light in space both in her very light, seemingly white works, and in her latest series of canvases, in which the colour resonances – for example those of green – take on a more dominant role and, in comparison with the lighter works of previous years, seem almost bold.
Dorothee Joachim’s canvases require both time and leisure on the part of the observer. A hurried onlooker who takes no more than a sidelong glance at these works might be satisfied with the first colour impression and thus miss out on the diversity of perspectives they offer. A meditative observer on the other hand who lingers in front of the paintings could lose himself in contemplation and let his attention become so riveted on the colour aspectt that he failed to experience the complexity which can only be perceived by changing one’s location and moving about in the room. The canvases demand flexibility of observation and a certain positional fluidity on the part of the onlooker. The artist highlights this element in the works by arranging series of canvases which together show the most varied colour shades in corresponding tonalities. Here we are witness to the considerable dialogic quality of these works, both among themselves and vis-à-vis the observer.
The special form of communication which Dorothee Joachim’s works demonstrate, and which is rendered even stronger by the harmony of the pictures amongst themselves and in their continual interplay with the room and with the changing standpoint of the observer, was consciously radicalised by the artist in the InSicht show at the Gothaer Kunstforum in Cologne in 1999. Working together with an architect, Joachim developed for this exhibition a white cube in which her paintings were shown. This cube constituted a room within a room, and provided the perfect conditions for dialogue between the works and visitors to the exhibit. In this white cube, whose ceiling was hung with a transparent gauze material and in which diffused light sources created a soft but undifferentiated light, the public experienced Dorothee Joachim’s canvases in a special atmosphere of visual tonality. In this clearly delimited space, visitors were party to the disappearance of limits normally set on colour, tone and their own perception.
Dorothee Joachim conceived this atmosphere especially for the showroom conditions of the Gothaer Kunstforum. The decision to show her work in this way raised questions about exhibition concepts, rooms and presentaion forms which artists, museums and exhibition spaces deal with on a daily basis. This special, almost sacred form of presentation is however only one way of showing the artist’s work. In the white cube at the Gothaer Kunstforum the multiple relationships between the pictures, their colour nuances, the vividness of the visual tones and the perceptive abilities of the observers were concentrated and brought together in an ideal context. In other presentations. such as that chosen for the Kunstmuseum Alte Post in Mülheim an der Ruhr, the pictures reflect over the days, weeks and months of the exhibition varying tones of light, sunshine, twilight and darkness. These alterations, taken together with the changing positions of the visitors in the exhibition space, allow the canvases to evoke a myriad of differentiated tones and resonances. In this way the paintings give rise to an even richer run of tonal modalities, although this run can never be experienced in one moment simultaneously, but only in a sum of moments.
In Dorothee Joachim’s works we experience painting, without being limited to painting. Through their interaction with the room and their continually evolving dialogue with the visitors, her visual colour-sculptures take on both an individuality and a physical presence which bring out and enhance their three-dimensionality. That Dorothee Joachim’s work bears a distinct object character is borne out by the lateral faces of her canvases, which she never covers up and whose developmental structure is significant in the context of her work. On these side parts we can view the traces of her work in progress, discover the variety of colour shades and gain concrete experience of an art beyond compromise.
Each one of her paintings is an individual coloured object with a degree of unmistakableness that sets it in a special relation to the other pictures, as well as to the observer. Dorothee Joachim goes about her artistic work with extreme rigour. Any form of concealment, covering up or illusion is absolutely foreign to her creative objectives. Her colour-sculpture canvases are open and lend themselves to comprehensive examination. Each one of the works is indelibly stamped with the same degree of authenticity that characterises her work as a whole.
These are pictures that give a voice to everything that is harboured within them, and to everything that goes to make them up – for all those who lend an ear.
(translated by John Lambert)