Tayfun Belgin
Images From a Far Proximity

Much has been said about the role of colour, light, structure, rhythm, space and emptiness in the works of Franziskus Wendels.* The painter Wendels repeatedly gives preference in his works to very special lighting situations, which place his central motifs in a world of glowing appearance. This glowing appearance is close to reality, and yet far removed from the tangible world of things that determines our earthly existence. The very challenge of uniting these apparent opposites is in itself a justification for painting, especially at a time in which large format photographs with thoroughly banal subjects all too often impinge unwelcomely on our gaze.

Franziskus Wendels is clearly a master of the touching gaze. He prefers to not quite get hold of the things he sees. His painting is characterised more by a process of testing the surface than of taking possession. The titles of some of his works demonstrate this. "Expectation", "Home Lighting", "The Appointment" or "Tightrope Walker". The latter work in particular "Tightrope Walker", with its arrangement of right-angled figures, gives no indication of the exciting balancing act taking place. Again, Wendels prefers to select a view from the window, whose softly focused details makes it appear more immaterial than tangible. It is possible that a rope was suspended outside the window from within the scene. It is also possible that our faculty of memory is responsible for this dim light situation. In a film, lighting circumstances of this sort would indicate anything but something positive, on the contrary: they would signal approaching danger.

The painting "Leipzig"  from 2001 puts me in a tense state of remembrance. Anyone who arrived in Leipzig by train shortly after 1989 would encounter a similar lighting situation in the sparsely illuminated central train station. A short time after the socialist idea and its not always heroic reality had been buried, material fractures of everyday shortcomings remained behind. Artificial night-time lighting in 1991 was of the kind that could still have inspired the imagination of those who lived through the Cold War. In the pale evening light, one would step out of the train onto the platform before proceeding hesitantly along a rough passageway towards the square in front of the building. A similar experience awaited passengers arriving in Halle or Dresden-Neustadt. The same pattern of imagery was valid here too. Ten years later, having arrived in the consumer reality of the new republic, one may sometimes wish one still had the opportunity of reliving the suspense of that walk along the passageway - it presented the eye with more tension than the pleasing department store standards of today. The painting "Leipzig" is thus a fundamental part of our collective memory.

Images of this sort, including the recently completed "Westend" , create a visual reality that stimulates memory. Wendels is clearly not merely an apprehensive formulator of ideas. By dint of his strategy of insinuation, he creates an image that lives on in time: as memory, as history, and as narrative, which do not end here but readily give rise to others in their wake. The great film director Hitchcock would have appreciated his light, and the American artist Edward Hopper would have appreciated his visual dramatics. Hopper's paintings certainly contain - as trademarks - scenes showing people and their loneliness or rather their loss of self. All these splendid works share a hint of melancholy. Yet Wendels's visual dynamics are fundamentally different from those of Hopper, even though they also often evoke an element of loneliness.

Scenes containing no people give rise to the impression that the artist himself is an observer looking in from a far proximity. What Wendels sees and experiences becomes quite apparent in these images. The real secret of this pictorial world is nevertheless to be found within ourselves. We ourselves decide whether we get involved in the painter's world: from Leipzig to anywhere.

(Dr. Tayfun Belgin is Kurator of the Museum am Ostwall in Dortmund. This text was writen for the catalogue "Franziskus Wendels- LIchtZeit" 2002.)
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