Ruprecht von Kaufmann 2005-2006
128 Pages, 60 Color Plates
Hardcover, Linnen Binding, 26 x 30,5 cm
(Texts in English and German)
by Grady Harp
Ruprecht von Kaufmann is a quiet, tall, lean, intense young artist whose eyes seem to penetrate through most every person and object he encounters as though he were discovering aspects of imagination unavailable to others. And his very strange and inordinately well painted canvases bear credence to that first impression. Born in Munich, Germany in 1974 he traveled to the United States in 1995 to study painting and design at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California and while completing his studies there it became apparent that he was a young force of importance in art. He moved directly from study into the important galleries and exhibitions in both California and across the US where his moody and literature and philosophy informed paintings garnered early accolades.Always able to paint with intense realism as in The Humanist Approach, 1999, where farmers beat a helpless horse as ravens flap against an ominous sky, his paintings suggested the presence of an artist's mind able to enter realms of distorted reality that allowed him to explore dreamlike arenas not visited by, or even available to, others. He placed his beautifully crafted figures and animals and objects in atmospheres that could only be described as otherworldly or cinematic. After considerable success in US galleries and museums he returned to Germany in 2003 and he now lives in Berlin, still young, still searching for realities beyond ordinary perception, and still marrying literature and philosophy to his paintings. And as though the surface of the canvas proves unable to contain the many facets of his creativity, he is now molding both sides of the surface with substances such as wax, cutting surfaces to become three dimensional. His curiosity seduces him, motivates him, drives him.To most admirers of art who first encounter one of von Kaufmann's paintings there is a moment of abrupt shock, as though there are elements in a seemingly straightforward recognizable (read 'representational') stratum that do not seem to fit. Or there are aspects of the painting that jolt the senses creating an urge to explore further to understand what may just be indefinable. For example, compare his recent painting Spirit, a seemingly simple portrait of a horse, though missing a leg and ears and standing quietly before an unheld rein anchored by a light bulb on a chair, with his early more seemingly angry image in 'The Humanist Approach': is there a relationship between the two paintings, a plane of injured acceptance from a prior history, or is this just a painting with meanings yet to be realized by the viewer? These paintings both deal with subject matter more of this world and are thus more accessible to the casual viewer.Von Kaufmann's newer works are even more exciting than his earlier, more richly colored, widely collected paintings. He continues to explore images that may be hiding behind the printed page of novels or books of history or of mythology. And it is these works that show the power of his ability to transcend reality and enter a world that can only be labeled an imaginarium. The very large scale painting The Studio: eight years of my life as Mr. Lampe (Mr. Lampe is the hare in German fables) uses muted colors to create a near fog-like atmosphere where the artist as the dressed rabbit sits inside a studio attended by a nude model and a small child and an ax close at hand, while outside we see the props that hold the studio shell as a temporary stage prop surrounded by an odd obese male, a seated smoking man who happens to be headless, a falling female from an airbourne boat and monkeys and other creatures and paraphernalia that may represent fodder for future paintings.But breaking down von Kaufmann's imagery into individual paintings invites more understanding of the images he paints. Medea (the vengeful mythological queen) reveals a subway with a corpse hanging from the ceiling, hollow images of running dogs and chairs, and a nude male running as though in a marathon. Die Erbschaft (The Inheritance) depicts three men, two with either ram or fish heads, joined in a strange manner, the smoke from one man's cigar forming an ethereal flower, all in a quite traditional room. Der Schimmelreiter ('one who rides a white horse') references the 1888 novella by Theodor Storm and focuses on a horse trapped in buckets of cement surrounded by soldier-like men whose heads are replaced by red balloons. Ajax ('a Greek warrior who killed in blind rage') is an airborne tattooed lad with a knife with both a streak of blood and a leaping dog in his path ' all confined in a space defined with shiny tiled walls and floor! Aufgelaufen ('stranded or beached') pictures a man astride a horse whose legs are mere sticks, coupled by a group of target marked rhinos watching a tireless pickup serve as a support for a man ascending into a floating inflatable boat. Drachentöter (Dragonslayer) appears to employ the same tattooed man from the painting 'Ajax' descending, cigarette and knife in hands, toward a red alligator in a pool.Understanding Ruprecht von Kaufmann's paintings requires engaging the mind as well as the eye ' and perhaps making a dash for the books to appreciate the multiple layers of meaning he has gathered from literature and myth. But there is so much to experience from his unique gifts that traveling the journey he has initiated is a complete and rewarding pleasure. We are left wondering where his wild mind will take us next! Grady Harp, August 11
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