Devil in the woods

Max Henry, Press Release, 1 February 2009

There are numerous ways one can look at abstraction today through the rear-view lens of 20th century history. From the geometric to expressionist, to color field and minimal, the last decade has offered us an early 21st century re-mix of styles and forms with new twists. 


Painting has fought off its own obsolescence despite the encroachment of technology. Our visual reference points have been altered, the synaptic response to stimuli modulated through virtual means. Working in a paradoxical position, painters must reconcile the weight of their predecessor’s output and social constructs while conveying something of the surrounding culture that’s contemporary. 


For Torben Giehler and his generation of artists who came of age in the late 1990’s and early 00’s, the computer, Internet, and virtual interface brought about a new discourse built around the old (some might say outmoded) cultural signifiers. Reality and perception shifted from an interior state related to the anima of the artistic persona to a mechanistic simulation, a bottomless well where anything might be possible, hence the birth of chat rooms, social networking, and alternate lifestyles such as “Second Life”, and new architectural forms. 


As related, the schism of real time in the physical state and the abyss of the virtual ought to be contemplated when considering the paintings of Torben Giehler. Using undulant variations of primary and secondary colors his technique has from the outset of his career consistently engaged the virtual in order to give order to new forms in painting. The rigors of geometric abstraction as influenced by early Modernism right up to Gerhard Richter’s color charts, Neo- geo, and a concern with the topology of architectonic space are his milieu. Natural forms found in the landscape and reworked in Photoshop are often modified into vortexes of overlapping spatial juxtapositions directly by hand on the canvas. Drips and translucent imperfections contrast with straight hard-edged angles, perspective is a harmony of improvised contrariness in subdued and animated shades of color. 


Such a methodical filtration of cold digital and actual physical data on canvas is a poetics of free-form structural fragments made whole. Giehler thus reconciles the jagged flaws you might find in a low-res j-peg with the warm uncanny touch of the human hand.

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