Nina Venus, Catalogue Essay, 1 June 2018

A short, partly imaginary conversation about Torben Giehler’s work recorded by Nina Venus 


NV: Magda, how are you? So sad I missed you when you were in Berlin for your performance and studio visit with Torben. At the time I was in NY, visiting Ana. Time flies, I think back to SMFA and so much reverberates. Much of what mattered then has shifted, the essence of the subject matter we discussed then though, still matter. Time and space - tricky things. Fluid. Fleeting.


MMC-P: Onward. I love that pic of you and Ana, there is something simple and beautiful about living with truth and a tender heart. Timeless. 


NV: Yeah, talking about time… some years back, I had a dream I like to recall. At the time, I had just moved again and was living out of boxes. In my bedroom, I had hung one of Torben’s paintings entitled “Paranoid Amnesiac”. Big square, 6x6 ft. Always, before going to sleep, I looked at it, often in twilight, musing, shapes dissolving, liquid horizons around me. I immersed myself and carried the matrix of neon colours and geometrical shapes shifting into my dreams. Weightless. Floating. Soon, I was flying inside the painting, around and across the lines, inside the medium and the element I navigated easily and seemed to understand the metaphorical quality of Torben’s language of painting. Shapes translated into physical forms correlating with meanings of colour and vice versa, I was following a complex conversation while simultaneously reading a multi-layered visual text about deconstruction. Experiencing the shape of content. In the end always landed on the red triangular form in the upper right corner, the only red field in the painting. This was in 2003. We’re in 2018 now and to this day, I can easily recall that dream. It’s like a connotation to every painting. Like a sound, a tune, like a melody stuck in my head. It subconsciously informs my appreciation of Torben’s work now. I tap into this experience when I look at his work now. Continuous.


MMC-P: Torben’s work is wicked strong. His work has evolved tremendously. Continuously. Disciplined, hard worker he has been, always. He is almost there. Like in “Indrawn Universal” or take his magnificent “Push The Sky Away”. Refined. Focused. Free. 


NV: Agreed. But where exactly is There? Is that a universal There? There like dealing with the inherent challenges of his work and creating an extremely and radically original experience. Creating his very own hermeneutical circle. 

His work now is an explosion of everything before. Ephemeral elements coming together, transient and temporary, evanescent and therefore exactly talking about our floating present. 



HUO: A danger for many artists is of their work becoming a cliché, they are expected to always do the same thing. Gilles Deleuze said that if there is such a thing as art, it is always a critique of clichés. Torben Giehler’s powerful and poetic painting “Reflections Of A Floating World” is epitomising this. It dissolves boundaries and yet holds its ground. 


MMC-P: Speaking historically, one should never forget that today’s critique is tomorrow’s cliché. He is unlearning, playing seriously and painterly pushing it. Pushing the paint. Painting without a brush. Experimenting within the medium, radically risking failure and yet in command of the terrain. 


JS: What terrain? Painting? Landscape? Grid? Deconstruction? Commenting on dissolving boundaries of our human existence? Reflecting about where we are in our world and where we might go? Daring to be still painting today? Painting?


HUO: Is he a painter if he uses tons of tape and a squeegee? I wonder what his favourite unrealized project would be? Maybe make a sculpture, a huge sculpture. Or compose a Symphony. 


NV: I can hear the music when I look at his paintings. 


GR: It doesn’t matter. A painter paints. It is simply the daily practice of painting. 


JS: Oh you artists, you smelly shamans, what’s with this obsession with the tools and the medium?! Your work presents your problems and you got to solve them, work comes from work. Work comes from work!!! 


NV: Working inside and outside of the studio. Riding his bike, straight forward and up and down the hills. Looking, looking, looking. Landscape around him, inner landscape. Then looking some more. Working. Always looking. Listening to music. Painting. 


GR: I agree. “Es gibt nichts Gutes, außer man tut es.” Erich Kästner said that.


HUO: Right.


MMC-P: Onward.


JS: I am out of this conversation. Just walking, not talking.


NV: Torben, you have anything to say?

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