Thomas von Taschitzki: Letting Color Have Its Way

Allowing color to find itself – a formula that expresses an essential quality of Dorothee Joachim’s paintings.

Permitting paintings to grow slowly – a metaphor that comes to mind while observing the process of producing these works.

The concept of “allowing” something to happen is quite obviously an important aspect of Dorothee Joachim’s art. Over the course of many years of focus on the phenomenon of color, she has developed an approach to painting that gives free rein to the resources and conditions of the painting process. If we examine the history of painting from the micro-perspective of the pigments used, we find that Dorothee Joachim’s works represent an extreme case – in which individual pigment particles are allowed to find their own positions.

Her paintings originate in the course of a long process that is shaped to equal degrees by discipline and openness, systematic method and intuition. In her most recent group of works on wood, Dorothee Joachim confines her input as a painter to the act of applying thinly diluted paint in horizontal strokes to panel hung vertically on the wall. How the pigments arrange and deposit themselves on the surface is left to the interplay of pigments, binder, water, substrate, and gravity.  Constantly repeated (over one hundred times in some paintings), the processes of applying the paint uniformly, allowing it to flow and letting it dry are devoted above all to letting something happen, something that obeys only itself and the laws of nature. In this sense, Dorothee Joachim enables the pigments to find their own places, their own neighborhoods, their own relationships of attraction and repulsion in the work. Painting becomes a deliberately prepared, self-regulating process of pigment accumulation and concentration.

The experimental nature of this method is revealed in the appearance of phenomena whose origins are not always entirely explainable. These include the remarkable auratic effect of the concentration of pigment in the middle of several paintings. The weightless, floating field that grows diffuse along its edges evokes the impression of an internal echo of the rectangular format of the work. The wide rectangular panel format seems to inscribe itself like a shadow in the painting – the painted field becomes a color space in which its own form resonates.

Certainly one of the root causes of this phenomenon is an action prompted by the systematic, conceptual principles of this painting technique. Before each painting sequence, the artist turns the panel by 180 and 90 degrees in alternation in order to achieve optimum equilibrium and equality of value over the entire surface. This practice also permits the body of the painting to act in concert with the forces of gravity. It encourages the development of relationships between the rectangular surface of the painting and the downward flowing paint at all points. Because all four positions assumed by the painting over the course of the creative process are of equal importance, the finished picture is in perfect equilibrium.

Other phenomena can also be attributed to this approach. Viewed from close up – and the intricate surface structure of these works prompts the viewer to look more carefully – a thin line can be seen running parallel to the edges of the painting. These accumulations of paint form during the drying process and give the painting a barely discernable frame that is self-generated in a certain sense.

Isolated spots of paint containing yellow, red, or blue pigment appear along the small outer edges of the paintings. Random and chaotic in form and distribution, these remnants of the liquid aggregate state of the painting offer retrospective analytical insights into the process of color composition.

Homoeostasis is the term used by system theorists to describe the capacity of a system to maintain a stable balance within itself through the mechanisms of feedback and response. What emerges in Dorothee Joachim’s paintings can be described in a freer, figurative sense as a kind of pictorial homoeostasis, as a sensitive process of self-regulation and self-organization steered by the artist, in the course of which all of the forces involved are progressively concentrated and balanced. Viewed in this way, the metaphor of gradual growth can be taken almost literally. In contrast to the genetic systems of natural organisms, however, the genetic make-up of these paintings is completely open with respect to the phenotypes it produces. Within the framework of a color system restricted to the three primary colors, the intuitive, experimental aspect of the painting process allows for continuous color mutations which even the artist herself cannot foresee. The overall tone of the finished work is the visual summation of all preceding decisions and occurrences. Color, and thus the painting as a whole, gradually develops an identity of its own. The fact that viewers may also find themselves at a different level through observation of a color individuality that has matured in this way is worthy of mention as well.

(in: Dorothee Joachim, Der innere Raum, Kunst aus NRW, Ehemalige Reichsabtei Aachen-Kornelimünster, 2007)

Translation by John Southard