Rolf A. Kluenter

Urban Retreat

Ilse Schache

This current series of Rolf A. Kluenter's work invites us to consider the big questions: the nature of self, the nature of the universe in which we find ourselves, and the relationship between them. The central theme of these paintings is not to capture some kind of abstract reality, life, as it 'is', but instead to explore the processes of creation and the creative process in and of itself. Kluenter is captivated by the verb 'to transpire', to cause something to happen, to go beyond, to cross something, to inspire. The purpose of his work is to demonstrate or to cause some kind of tension, since this, in his mind, will cause something to transpire. Kluenter is interested by the idea that beyond memory, there is something more, something non-material but nevertheless, very real. It is this 'beyond-ness' of things that his work is trying to expose. As something happens, or transpires, it passes into our memory, where this process of creation keeps developing. Nothing is finite and nothing has an end; one event is transformed and so leads on to something else. Even as this occurrence becomes memory, this course of transpiration continues in our minds. Kluenter talks in depth about how, in his mind, his works have their own life force, their own independent impetus. As a temporal process, the creation of a painting takes on an autonomy that exists separate to the artist's original intention. He talks about how he is physically unable to copy one of his own paintings since he is unable to duplicate the creative process that gave birth to the piece. The process of creation, therefore, is something that is dynamic and in itself ever-changing, as part as a universally dynamic and ever-changing world.

Firstly, this then raises the issue of experience and assessment of that experience in the inevitably illusory and unreliable nature of the sensory world. How, then, are we able to perceive and thus to comprehend our world and ourselves? To be able to 'know', we must first find a way to perceive in a true and real sense that which we wish to know. As Rolf A. Kluenter points out, in scientific theorisation, this is attempted by the application of modelling. Science puts forward theories to explain the physical phenomenon around us, models that are then meant to be able to calculate (predict) future configurations of said phenomena. These new forms of science that attempt this exercise, such as biotechnology, nuclear physics and nano-technology, are based entirely on secondary research. They analyse indications and products of these phenomenon since the matter that they are endeavouring to examine and explain, cannot be observed by our senses. Thus, there is no 'true' evidence for these explanations of our universe.

This endeavour began as early as the Renaissance with men trying to explain and thereby control the universe around them through the use of models or theorization. It is the idea of the black box: we do not know what is happening inside, we can only examine and interpret its output, and memory functions in much the same way. These paintings are the simultaneous output of both the artist's individual memory and our collective memory; tied as we are in the web which in culture, society and the human environment.

These canvases are a picture of the world, and are gathered from the idea of the ideal world model. If the knowledge of the material world is conjecture, conversely, knowledge of our soul and of our emotions is something that is more solid. This leads to the conclusion that through emotion we can know ourselves.

The tensions in Kluenter's work are what drive the pieces, since this tension sparks the dynamic process. One of the most important tensions is in his use of palate: black, white and grey. We must stop thinking of black and white in terms of being diametrically opposing and conflicting opposites. Instead, they each are interchanging halves, each with a common origin, each a part of this dynamic process of creation. The black webs and grids are reminiscent of his earlier works using blackened paper. Paper represents something that is old, traditional and organic. It is associated with ideas of communication and transmission. By extension, it is a symbol for culture and our cultural life. However, paper is something that is fragile and easily degraded, and thus short-lived and has but a passing existence. The round patches of white that are a new development in Kluenter's work are to do with his recent experiments with using light bulbs in his work. Light bulbs, are opposite in many respects to paper, being associated with science and technology. The bulbs suggest light, which as we know, is a form of energy. Energy, according to Einstein's E=mc2 theory, is the force of causation. Something is created out of where before there appeared to be nothing. This is the process of creation - the observation of what happens when something transpires, and the main pre-occupation of this current series of work. This physical formula argues for interchangability of energy and matter, of void and material things. There is a great amount of void in Kluenter's paintings, which suggests at the great amount of void that is present in our universe. This void, should not, however, be confused with nothing-ness. The void is in itself a force for change and a source of matter. It is out of the void that all things come and to which all things must return.

This idea of space and the function of space allude to the significance of the title of this series: Urban Retreat. Rolf A. Kluenter is exceptionally humanitarian. He is concerned not with abstract theories in and of themselves, but in their relationship to and meaning for human life. The overwhelming environment that is the urban space causes him to question what this means for the individuals that must reside within that space, at what recourse they have at their disposal to contend with the pressures and impact of that environment. We cannot escape from material reality nor can we avoid the necessity of having to exist within some kind of physical context. Our aim should be to find a retreat within this spatial environment, instead of a removal from its confines. These paintings act as facilitators in this process and exercise of temporary withdrawal. He does not advocate removal from this environment as a constructive solution, nor does he suggest living apart or secluded. It is undesirable to live with a mind deluded. Instead, we must find a way to temper our awareness of our reaction to the environment, this is to say, to find a way, whilst being among it all, and to remain true to our truest and most inner self. First, however, we must find a means by which to know and to comprehend our own identity and place in the external environment.

We invite you to pause for just a moment and consider the works before you in this exhibition - to seek, at least temporarily, a space for reflection and contemplation and to discover for yourself your own personal urban retreat.

Ilse Schache is a lecturer in the Cultural Heritage Department of Fudan University. She has worked for many years within the world of heritage preservation and contemporary art in mainland China. Her post-graduate research carried out for her Master of Cultural Heritage was in the symbolic function of authenticity and integrity in Chinese temple architecture. She currently lectures in the social and cultural contemporarity of modern Chinese art and is presently undertaking research into how cross-cultural exchanges inform and influence the artistic and creative process in environments and instances of multiculturalism.