Bärbel Schulte
"The Appointment", 2002 (Franziskus Wendels)

In a large room lit only by the cold neon light of streetlamps shining in through the curtains, a rather old-fashioned standard lamp stands out sharply against the background. Parts of other pieces of furniture, a table top and what appears to be two arms of a chair, can be made out in the twilight. "The Appointment", the title of this work by Franziskus Wendels, immediately urges spectators to ask themselves what story is concealed behind this scene? An appointment usually takes place between at least two people, but there is no-one here except this cold light filling the room, making it appear almost uninhabited and curiously strange. Has someone been transferred here who is waiting in the dark in one of the armchairs, possibly still sad and lonely? Has a crime taken place here perhaps? The glaring light outside suggests that we are in a city, perhaps in a hotel room. The light attracts our gaze, arouses our curiosity. Franziskus Wendels once suggested that, "Only where there is a light is there something, even if there is nothing there". We can only speculate about this something which could be there, for the voyeur is by definition unsatisfied. The secret of people remains intact, they remain anonymous in their own world, a world that is strange to us and from which we are excluded. And although Wendels focuses on the man-made world as one of his central themes, and although he shows details selected from urban space, people themselves are completely missing from his images. We may find nothing more than traces of them. The night-time view of this strange room irritates the spectator and raises questions to which there are no answers.
Franziskus Wendels's latest works are a strict continuation of themes with which he has been occupied for several years: the city at night, the effect of light and the relation between light and its glow.
Nikolaus Cusanus was the first person to express the idea that light does not merely reveal the colour of objects. Rather, light creates colours: "Omnis esse coloris datur per lucem descendentum." We are accustomed to the idea that light gives form, outline and colour to surrounding objects. In the works of Franziskus Wendels this theory is repeatedly called into question, for in spite of the light, in spite of the fact that the windows are illuminated, they look almost colourless. The faint glow shining in through the windows is immediately absorbed by the darkness of the night. Artificial light, to which Franziskus Wendels has consistently devoted his attention, does not properly light the room. This is what lends these works a disquieting and irritating effect. Only on closer observation does it become clear that the pale grey-blue or greyish green of the background is in reality made up of many different colour particles, and that he achieves the effect of light diffusely penetrating the night-time haze in a deceptively authentic way on canvas by spraying on the cool watery white colour in a fine mist.
By choosing to treat light as a subject of painting, Franziskus Wendels stands in a long tradition, yet he transposes this theme into the present-day, as it were showing it in a contemporary light. For he does not present us with the dramatically and secretly illuminated scenery of a Rembrandt, nor with meadows of flowers bathed in sun characteristic of the impressionists, but with the reflections of artificial light in urban space. The fact that he works by constantly reducing the number of impressions contained in his images until they are practically limited to the opposition between lightness and darkness, brings about, as he himself says, "purification and concentration as regards the content". The darkness of night-time helps him to implement this process of reduction, for darkness automatically reduces by throwing its veil over everything, thereby concealing both ugly and beautiful details and leaving the outlines of only the most important structures visible.
The core message that he conveys to us is extremely ambivalent and must, as Gisela Fiedler-Bender once wrote, "be read while thinking". Franziskus Wendels's pictorial spaces bear witness to the reflective consciousness of the artist himself. They are not identifiable and not predictable but nevertheless somehow appear familiar to us. They oscillate between space and surface, between representationalism and unrepresentationalism. They are not narrative yet harbour a thousand stories. In their equivocalness they prevent any kind of unambiguous access. Thus Franziskus Wendels stands out from the general concept of art and creates border areas which may well lead to a new attentiveness in visual perception.
(Dr. Bärbel Schulte is Director of the Museum Simeon-Stift in Trier. This Text was writte for the catalogue "Franziskus Wendels - Lichtzeit 2002".)
Die Verabredung (The Appointment)
Cioa Bella