David Ryan











Ingo Meller

at Andrew Mummery Gallery, London 12 Nov – 13 Dec 2003


Ludwig Wittgenstein once commented, “ In philosophy we must always ask: ‘How must we look at this problem in order for it to become solvable?’ For here (when I consider colours, for example) there is merely an inability to bring the concepts into some kind of order. We stand like the ox in front of the newly-painted stall door.” The paradox here, between the methodology and tools for acquiring knowledge and the often disarming, ineffable quality of experience itself, is one that appears to underpin the painterly enterprise of German artist Ingo Meller. His recent excellent one-person show at the Andrew Mummery Gallery in London displayed an acrobatic poise between the disinterested and analytic practices of the archivist and the urge to present the essential ‘misbehaviour’ of colour within the context of systematic thinking. Essentially a deep-rooted investigation of what constitutes the act of painting, Meller’s project consists of a probing and ascetic breakdown of the activity, factually laying out its bare bones.
Materials and how they perform specifically within the confines of a disciplined procedure form the core of this investigation: Linen grounds - of a consistently modest size - are cut to shape by following their weave, resulting in a slightly skewed rectangular shape. Paint is applied in various densities, usually rapidly, in horizontal and vertical brushstrokes, each one requiring a one-shot Zen-like accuracy. These dragged marks are either ghost-like traces of the faintest wisp, or full-bodied assertions. Yet they are detached and unemotional. Gestures, yes, but those of the test strip, or even the non-intentional smear of the wiped brush usually found within the detritus of the studio context. This unemotional adherence to rapidly applied marks in either horizontal or vertical formations, or both, often results in loosely aligned grid structures. The linen grounds operate as smooth, flat, skins attached directly to the wall, liberating the surface from the wooden stretcher and connecting them to the gallery wall plane. It also adds to the floating quality of these impressionist structures – which belies their persistent materialism.
Connected with this dematerialisation is another tension within Meller’s work - that of the relation of the ‘picture’ to the ‘painting’. This friction between a purely material and ‘self-conscious’ practice and the activity of ‘picturing’ is eloquently played out in these pieces. Colour is used exclusively as a readymade – becoming catalogues of coloured marks which are bounded by the industrially manufactured processes that produce them (acknowledged by Meller in his titles.). Here we have titles constructed of Gold, Winsor & Newton 283 or Brilliant yellow extra light, Williamsburg etc., and with these colours Meller creates improbable, acidic harmonies. It is the complete interconnectivity of mark, colour, and ground which push them into the pictorial – some appear urban, others more resonant of nature, and in a general sense they remind us of things seen; this has more to do with how pigment functions as a kind of light, but it ultimately and intentionally transgresses the code that Meller himself has set up by inscribing within the work a surplus or excess which cannot be ‘caught’ by the meticulous processes of the artist. It leads us to ask what is the ‘form’ of these works? In one sense it is a dialogue between a global system and the particularity of the result of putting that system into operation. Yet there remains the peculiar contradiction of the mechanistic and the sensuous. Here, self-abnegation reveals the implicit sensuality of the medium itself - despite the presence and traces of the artist himself.
Originally published in Art Papers USA-