If we had to name a constistent theme for Peter Vahlefeld’s way of working, it would be that of expropriation of found material; the ways of formatting information and manipulating their surface through heavy use of paint. In his newest works the material is advertisements for international galleries and auction houses whose content he has painted over. Blurring the borders between painting and photography, Vahlefeld’s works capture the spirit of a generation that playfully mixes media and styles and has found a very individual language for its way of life.
It is no longer about playing off the high and the low against each other. Rather how we can use the powerful impulses of popular culture that pervade our life for our own intents and purposes. In other words: how to use representation against itself.
Parts of images, words, text, and logos pop up as subject matter; shifts in perspective take place back and forth across the surface of the painting and subtle references to the reality that the advertisements reflect or inhabit are used to indicate the unique nature of the painting as depictions of today`s conflicted desires with pathos that was once reserved for great epics and historical deeds. Here the decadence of the empire isn`t taking place in Ancient Rome; it`s taking place in the contemporary Western world. Advertising is beating the fine arts at their old game. We cannot ignore the fact that one of the traditional functions of fine art, the definition of what is fine and desirable for the ruling class, and therefore ultimately that which is desired by all society, has now been taken over by marketing industries.
Working in a palette of exuberant colours, the artist overpaints iconic popular images until they are no longer recognizable, but are irrevocably and brutally changed into amalgamations of Abstract Expressionism mixed with the remants of Pop.
There is a palpable rawness to Vahlefeld‘s work and method of painting. The canvas becomes a palette of inkjet-prints as the painting upon it takes shape: areas are sanded down and gauged out, the acrylics and oils he uses are combined, erased and re-combined multiple times until the surface and image he reveals find a precarious, off-kilter harmony. Additionally, the surfaces of Vahlefeld‘s paintings are given a battered, aged patina, with areas sometimes rubbed bare, others torn, which are integral as the backdrop to the final reading of the image of the artist‘s gestural lines on the surface. There is a great push and pull, and it seems that Vahlefeld lives in this swirl of delicate gestures and driving desires to use these powerful impulses for his own intent and purpose.
December 29, 2011
advertising, analog, branding, collage, digital, painting, photography, Mixed Media, New Media, art criticism, Expropriation, auction houses