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Sometimes the main actor, sometimes a grain of sand in the hurricane

2001-10-25 Mal Hauptdarsteller
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Siegburg. Ceci n'est pas une pipe" (this is not a pipe) is what René Magritte wrote under a picture that clearly showed a pipe, and "Ceci n'est pas une rétrospective" is what Peter Valentiner and Walter Wolf call their joint exhibition (until 2 December) at the Siegburg Stadtmuseum, which is really not a retrospective and has as little to do with Magritte as it does a common denominator. Only the long-standing friendship between the artists is the cause of the joint show, which polarises more than it unites, which - to say it in advance - is what makes it so exciting.

Clear conception and apparent lightness

One of them, Peter Valentiner (60), relies on a clear conception, does not indulge himself or the viewer in sensual pleasure and dispenses with figuration in favour of abstract structuralism. The other, Walter Wolf (38), needs the image of the human being to give free rein to his fabulation. And it is quite clear that the viewers' sympathies tend to go to Wolf, who is more than 20 years younger and who, with his (only seemingly) playful lightness in the painterly tradition of Art brut, stages a dramatic world theatre that arouses a variety of emotions as well as associations and indulges the viewer with an exceedingly sensual painting.

Meanwhile, Peter Valentiner is rather a case for purists, even though his large-format cycle on the theme of "Hurricane", although in ascetic black and white, is certainly capable of evoking feelings of vertigo. And the thought that man in the eye of the typhoon shrinks to an "insignificant matter in the complicated structural fabric", is "as banal as a speck of dust" and "not a bit freer than a drop of water in the river", as Jürgen Kisters eloquently puts it in the accompanying catalogue. Admittedly, Valentine's collection of material on the hurricane theme, arranged in showcases to complement his paintings, really seems superfluous: The work speaks for itself:

In Valentiner's work, man does not even appear as an extra; in Wolf's, he plays the main role and yet is anything but a hero who determines his own destiny.

Common denominator in the basic attitude

His melancholy figures seem lost, thrown into the world (and here there is still a common denominator in the basic attitude of both), and even his "Hitler as painter" turns into a pathetic caricature of a Braggart.

Wolf is one who tells stories of life and death, biblical stories like the taking down of the cross and those of other religions and cultures. Above all, however, it is the opulent painting that is so fascinating about Wolf's work, the chromatic structure that allows the backgrounds to shine from the depths, the impasto structures and inventive scripts.

Von Günter Willscheid


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