press release

In order to be perceived at all, signs need appropriation. To some extent they are generated by reception. Any artistic effort to work with and on signs inevitably begins with an act of appropriation: the apperception and reading of forms as signs. In Aribert von Ostrowski’s case, these sense-creating activities take their cues from the universe of pop-cultural signs: Birds, insects, landscapes, faces, trademarks and slogans from books and magazines, scientific illustrations and consumer advertising. Over the past years, historic characters like Annette von Droste-Hülshoff and Sigmund Freud, whose names were not only embedded within his abstract paintings as discernible “figurations” but, in Ostrowski’s thematic context, were also inviting readings in which they could just as well be seen as a creation of his “ideal parents” setting a level of reflexivity for his work with image and text. The actual work of appropriation sets in when Ostrowski transforms the designs, pictures and words he finds into his very own, condensed signs, for instance in the form of constantly variegated signature that has recently become a topic of its own. The decision whether an object is to be considered as figure or as background, as negative or positive matrix, marrow or pall, is always left in a state of transition. In the process, scripture becomes figure, image becomes cipher, objects turn into pictures. Other than in a purely allegorical reading of collaged elements that would leave the act of sense-making to the viewer, here a performing element is maintained when the reception of the found elements turns into production – and this is where we find the specific transience in Ostrowski’s paintings. As their reception never answers the question which of their parts is persisting and which is dynamic, these paintings never seem to end up as fixed evidence – neither formally nor as makers of sense.

They insist on being intermediate, in programmatic suspension between reference and gesture, between the urge for denotation and its proximate relativisation. The paintings’ de-figurative element, the destruction of the object during the act of painting and its coinstantaneous flash-up, is translated directly to the semiotic process, and Ostrowski’s most obviously classical iconographic “figure”, the praying mantis he obsessively paints and draws, demonstrates this by the interconnection of her mimetic reference to the anthropomorphic genesis of signs and her “disappearance” into the backdrop. Painting, collaging and covering are treated as coequal methods of visualizing or making invisible.

The paintings’ grounding often consists of silver foil, which “absorbs” any spatial association of even the most abstract painting, remitting the perceived signs to the event of their processing.

These silver foils, which recently have even started to cover the walls behind the paintings, again feature the double nature of those things that interest Ostrowski the most:They literally deliver a “reflection”, although they obviously don’t constitute mimetic reflexes, but vague shadows, nondescript bodies like shapes on a fogged-up bathroom mirror, emerging both in the work and in its execution. The objects, yon doors, boxes, frames or cages, bear the signs of semiosis: More pictographic signs than image carriers, not just hinges, thresholds or axis simply expanding into space, but something that at the same time either points beyond space or vanishes into it.

Aribert von Ostrowski. The Diamond Is Not A Maximum

Aribert von Ostrowski