‘Through the unknown, we’ll find the new.’ (Baudelaire / Lowell, ‘Le Voyage’.)
Strips and smudges, splashes and dots, repetitions and symmetries that all of a sudden take a wrong turn or stop short, the carpet pulled without a warning from under us - the paintings in Swiss artist Alexander Buhler’s new solo show, his third with studio1.1 and his first for a few years in the UK, teasingly avoid settling into focus. These are images that are either fading away or fading into existence. Vertical as a Japanese scroll, there’s a blotted calligraphy we’ve no earthly chance of reading. Reading’s not the point.
A question for after the break: what on earth can Frankenstein and Icarus have in common? (Apart from being two named paintings in the exhibition.)
In an important strand of his practice, Buhler makes artist’s books – in the regular way, as you do, deciding meticulously what goes in and what goes where. Here In this show, he talks about a completely different kind of book: one that someone else has written, one you have to open to discover what’s inside. In control of the preliminary elements of the process, folding a canvas and pouring paint, he himself needs the unfolding to show him what’s happened.
What has happened is pitched somewhere between a Rorschach blot and the final stage of a Warhol screenprint. The image is too much not-there to lead to a useful diagnosis of a mental state. We’re seeing the destroyed last state of something we can’t recognise because we’ve never seen it before. (And neither has the artist.)
Each painting is an experiment, a discovery waiting to be made. What was that about Icarus and Frankenstein?