DAS REINE SEIN ALS ANFANG
SALOON is delighted to present Das reine Sein als Anfang, a soloshow by German artist Heinz Butz (°1925 in Dillingen).
THE COMPOSED COMPOSITIONS OF HEINZ BUTZ
To look at the work of Heinz Butz means to be confronted with some of the most fundamental artistic questions: What does it mean to perceive? What “is” composition? What happens when abstraction is grounded, rather than spectacular?
As Paul Cézanne has said, to paint is not to realise a painting, but to realise nature itself. This is one of the most vital mysteries that can feed a lifetime’s work. As natural elements are brought into the tableau (and this can be by shape as well as by colour), then its rendition, however abstract it may be, will feed back into nature, into the perception of everyday life. A succinct rendition can alter the perception of nature itself. Butz has embarked on this quest with ascetic precision; working systematically according to his artistic credo: “imitate, perceive, comprehend, understand — application, ability, self-formation.” Every day for the last seventy years.
The result is encapsulated in drawings, paintings, and Bildobjekte — shaped canvases chipboards that open a subtle dialogue between sculpture and painting. Frank Stella and Elsworth Kelly have also of course cut up the pictorial frame with shaped canvases, not to forget the German tradition with the more considerate formal language of Blinky Palermo and Imi Knoebel. But, with Butz, working mostly on a more modest scale, we have something different. His work, sometimes merely the size of an outstretched hand, above all attains an introspective force.
Clearly the work, in harking back to itself, is inward looking. This is most apparent when two similar objects are coupled or when similar lines are repeated. It enhances a pictorial tension, having us bear witness to forms that purely relate to each other, that answer the demands of their own composition. The remarkable thing is that this meditative condition, one in which the work does not utilise spectacular means to assert its presence, is not self-contained. It does not belong to an orthodox abstraction that aims for the sternness of pure geometry — the remnants of painterly gestures reveal this. The work is deeply sensorial and not the result of a hermetic processual effort. Above all, it profoundly relates to nature: it brings us nature in its sparsest, most condensed form.
All this does not unravel the enigma of his work: how is the formal language of abstraction bent and fit into the space of a small canvas? As if a small breeze on a clear day spells out the basic elements of the world: lines, flat, colours, crosses, ovals. It is all the more astounding since Butz profoundly acknowledges an entire history of abstraction from the basis of Modernity (Cézanne, Van Gogh) to the foundation of abstraction (Kandinsky, Malevich), to then continue to set out his own path to further test the logic behind the inner consistency of painting. The possibilities of the composition of the canvas are pushed to the most personal manner, outside of a more grotesque abstract tradition. Although a moderately sized canvas would command a condensation of form, Butz finds room for a bright play within the work itself. It can be cut up, assembled, and sewn back together. It creates a supreme motion of elementary elements that dance to the rhythm of a considered composition.
Text: Laurens Otto
Photography: Lola Pertsowsky, all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and SALOON