Franziskus Wendels -
  • Fog, Light and Questions Concerning Reality
By Beate Reifenscheid

As a viewer, too, you often / sometimes have to start over and over again.   All you thought was an established fact, all knowledge you have acquired is once again turned upside down.  Art provokes, and that it does so is not only good and important, it also makes up a fair share of its quality.  Nevertheless, the viewers are quite puzzled to start with, being urged to give up their philosophical, perhaps strictly empirically oriented perception of the world as well as their daily routines.  The confrontation of knowledge and emotions is startling, energetically rousing, and produces but an initial  feeling of uncertainty, self-doubt and - perhaps - curiosity.
The more recent works of Franziskus Wendels can have this effect, too:  The viewer often feels magically attracted.  The colours are too seductive and their suggestive power too bright, ranging from the palest shades to strong, almost voluptuous, dark glowing universes indulging in the rapture of colours.  They always stick out:  they shimmer, they speak to us, they attract us, like honey attracts the flies, which stick to it and die.   The colours of Franziskus Wendels are just as sensuous, bringing disaster on ignorant and naive viewers.  Everything is calculated, and nothing is left to chance.  Even if the viewers are rationally aware of this visual trap they cannot escape the magical attraction of this new composition.  

Franziskus Wendels divides his compositions, apparently opening spaces, as if looking out of the darkness: Spaces of light pouring into a glare.  The brilliance of the light, this inexplicable phenomenon, which exists thanks to immaterial, physical factors and which is never the same, reveals itself in the works of Wendels as a mysterious visionary reality, which produces itself  just as well as it immediately evades any definition-related determination.  Franziskus Wendels has the viewer  participate in something that could be a vision rather than a specific physical light phenomenon.  It is rather the imagination of a light that is turned towards the unreal, the spiritual world instead of the dull daily routines.  There never are any simple light phenomena or even sunsets, nothing that could delight the soul in romantic empathy for nature, although almost all of Wendels compositions have this landscape motive.  At first, the viewers believe they are confronted with a mysterious description of nature.  But that is not the case, as the paintings do not generally describe, but rather specify.  As amazing as that may appear - the paintings of Franziskus Wendels are - to put it in easy terms - fundamental questions concerning the given facts of appearance and reality.  They are questions relating to the relation between viewer, object and the perhaps real existence, which cannot always - and least of all by force - be described in a one-dimensional manner.  This also makes it impossible to apprehend them by formal descriptions, even though the details of the composition are quickly discussed:  The strict separation of the homogeneous black-grey areas, which have an emotionless effect, like a wall, and the opening up of coloured spaces, which can be partially seen in their light-like sfumato, aim at separation and  separability right from the start. Separation is a barrier between the position of the viewer (extrinsic), the coloured areas (intrinsic) as well as the participation in an emotional content of the light effects and the correlation of the viewer, who individually reconstructs and perceives the painting.  In terms of composition, this separation always results in the perpetuating repetition of the desire to approach and not being able to approach.  It is very obvious that the paintings can partly not be apprehended. They do not allow for a final, unique takeover by the viewer.  This is mostly attributable to the abovementioned spaces of light, which Franziskus Wendels creates and which define apparently harmless real spaces, e.g., looking into a living room or at an illuminated house from a foggy street corner.  Wendels uses much fantasy to design these spaces and to almost realise the as if.  As wonderful as this may be for a viewer, it is not the full truth. Some other compositions show that his paintings search for, investigate and experiment with something different.

More and more he tries to minimise the traces of the painter in the painting and to avoid brushstrokes and running paint.  It is the sprayed colours the particles of which do not blend so much, which emancipate all colours, avoid the potential domination of any single colour, and which facilitate a  coexistence of colours.  The particle-like nature of the colours not only creates the apparent incomprehensibility of the light and its hazy nature (which also creates an emotional atmosphere), but directly addresses physical issues and their decisive influence on philosophy after Einsteins quantum physics.  When Werner Heisenberg discovered in 1927 that the atom is not an object, but a wave, a vibration or frequency expanding in space, the overall epistemology began to falter. Physics cannot provide definite answers to the question of what is out there, even if ordinary materialistic objects, such as skyscrapers are concerned: Unobserved, they cannot be described as an object, but only as a wave of possibilities, a vibrating potential between idea and fact (Heisenberg), which materialises from a half-realistic daze to a concrete form as soon as being observed.

Compositions where Wendels puts himself and the viewer in the interior and has the viewer look through a horizontal sequence of windows, which appear to be illuminated from the outside, increase this uneasiness even more.  Bottom and adhesion, the view up and to the sides are not defined.  The viewer is (almost) free falling.  Confronted with the vision of light, which turns out to be fatal and just as little concrete as the space the viewer is confined to.  The visible world is rapidly revealed as a world of illusion, thus also questioning the viewer and the viewers existence.  If the world before our eyes cannot be understood, if there are no constants, everything becomes questionable.  Wendels paintings promulgate the idea of a world, that is constantly moving in waves and the factors of which cannot be assessed.  The potential these paintings offer is immense, but depends on the reflecting viewer, who perceives this world.

In his latest experiments, Franziskus Wendels very playfully and with a high fun factor devotes his attention to phosphorescent colours, which, in the true sense of the word, are more substance than colour.  They had once been used for alarm clocks to make the bottom plate visible at night.  The statutes of saints, too, were covered with phosphorescent colours to make them shine at night.

The light absorption of phosphorescent colours during the day is fascinating:  Their brilliance at night depends on how much light they absorb during the day.  This, of course, also includes artificial sources of light.  Franziskus Wendels currently experiments with a daring construction, using the most absurd elements, found objects, pieces of paper, an old carpet, etc.  What looks like an untidy storeroom in broad day light, miraculously turns into the skyline of a metropolis at night.  The viewer is puzzled and amazed and walks with almost child-like joy through this world of illuminated tower blocks and streets.  Behind the childlike fun, however, it is once again, and more radically, emphasised that the world we see is not the world we find and vice versa.  Everything needs to be questioned all the time, facts we thought were established are abandoned, because physical specifications have changed or simply because our senses are not capable of fully understanding the truth, and it remains unclear whether the truth we understand is absolute.  Franziskus Wendels demonstrates this in an absolutely sensuous manner, taking great joy in his paintings and the quality of his paintings.  But the questions he deals with are so much more radical than the surface the viewers typically content themselves with (but do not have to).  In this respect, Wendels also questions the relativity of contemporary art and its credibility, which, at the same time, manifests the credibility of our own existence.
Synapse 3