Rolf A. Kluenter


Rolf A. Kluenter: The Black Paper Project
Jonathan Liu

Since over 2,000 years, the Indian monks in yellow cloak have been spreading the message of Buddhism - also into Tibet. The Lamaism has a scholastic tradition, that is, documentation of the Buddhist teaching. Then the art of paper making also landed from China on the roof of the world - and the Lamas wrote the religious text on the paper.

Different from the Chinese, the Nepalese use "Daphne" instead of bamboo as a raw material. This plant can only be found in the Himalaya mountain area, in the altitude between 2,500 and 3,500 meter, where a human footprint can hardly be found. The paper is made by hand and only with the freshest water from the mountain.

To avoid the monsoon rain and the bitter coldness, the workers go only twice a year, from October to December and from March to May, to the remotely located forests in Nepal and collect the plant for paper production. They prefer the strong branches and young stems because they deliver the highest quality.

The paper and its production process are free of impurities -
The uncontaminated mountain water cleanses even our soul.
An absolute purity.

Once Rolf A. Kluenter visited an old monk in Nepal, who presented him with a stack of traditional manuscript paper, which his family had been making with the same method for generations. This strong but flexible paper was used by the Nepali royal family as well as the monasteries in Tibet.

Rolf A. Kluenter uses a lot of hand-made Nepali paper in his works; during the manufacturing process he blackens the paper with coal dust.

"The combination of black pigment and cellulose atomises the surrounding light, transforming it into a delicate shimmering surface, thus creating a subtle experience of pure materiality. This empowers the material and creates the groundwork for my art."

The manuscript paper is the diary of the artist - a documentation of his wandering experience.

His key work: "Eight Books" - eight wordless books stacking on top of each other. Is it still a book when there is no word? Must a book contain words? Does it consist of words and words alone? Are we allowed to reduce the function of a book into a word-transporting medium? Likewise: Must we always talk in order to be a human being? What did Kluenter go through when he retreated himself into the monastery in Tibet? What happened in his "Secret Room"? Maybe this is the key to open his "Eight Books".

If painting means that the artist makes a dialogue with his picture through his paint brushes and yet he stays outside, then Kluenter has another frame of reference: he is "entangled" in his works when he weaves his paper stripes. The audiences are no more outsiders - to understand his art, they must go into the mesh, into the labyrinth.

After years of wandering Rolf A. Kluenter stays in China. The Chinese civilization developed in the absence of a religion and the churches. As a result, the moral standards in the Christian world do not exist in China. Thus, the juxtapositions between angel and devil, good and bad are not that cleared - Cinderella was never in China.

Instead of the contradictory "black and white", the Chinese prefer the complementary "yin and yang" system. Something is white in Europe; it may be grey in China. After all, colour is not absolute; it changes gradually and is always in motion.

Are Kluenter's works "black on black" a manifestation? Do the black paper stripes mean a disapproval of the black-and-white binary system? A system blackout?

Jonathan Liu graduated with Bachelor of Science and received his MBA in Hong Kong. He develops project concepts and writes in German, English and Chinese. He lives now in Germany, Spain, Bali and Hong Kong.