Helmut Dorner, Apfelschale, 2013, lacquer on acrylic glass, 150 x 102 x 7 cm. Courtesy Galerie Bärbel Grässlin, Frankfurt a.M. and the artist (Photos: Wolfgang Günzel, Offenbach)
Almost 20 years ago I saw an exhibition of Helmut Dorner’s paintings on perspex at Brooke Alexander in New York. Now, with two years of theglazelondon.com having just passed in December 2017, it is this artist’s work which comes to mind as I search for something which best represents the understated power of good painting which made me not just want to get my own hands dirty in the studio, but also to write about it.
When visiting galleries, some painters tend to have the habit of scrutinizing the sides of a canvas, like a carpenter appraising a block of wood. Dorner’s Perspex panels are missing sides here and there, inviting the curious into the odd position of craning their necks in an effort to peer behind a painted surface which is already largely transparent. It is just one clever conceit amongst several other carefully considered devices.
Dorner has been careful to spread the labours of his experiments with his medium across this long-running series. Perhaps for this reason each individual work carries a hint of minimalism. However, there is too much investment here in surface and motif for these works to be seen as anything less than pure painting.
(I will be featuring Helmut Dorner’s work, and that of other artists, later this year in a longer article on abstract art today)