Greater New York / MoMA PS1

Lilian Tone, MoMA P.S 1 Contemporary Art Center. Long Island City, New York, 13 March 2005

Over the past five years Torben Giehler has made paintings that

draw in equal parts on digital technology and traditional mediums.

Invoking the aesthetics of video games and computer animation on

the one hand and painting's tenuous balance of control and accident

on the other, Giehler consolidates these customary opposites into a

strangely compelling hybrid visual language.

Giehler adopts a Pop palette, amplifying the harsh impact and

liquid transparency of fluorescent magentas, greens, yellows,

and oranges with compositions that employ striking contrasts

and juxtapositions of colors. He cross-references Paul Cézanne's

paintings of Mont Sainte-Victoire with science fiction movies such

as Tron (1982), generating a type of luminosity that suggests subtle


Although they may look computer-generated at a distance or in

reproduction, upon closer scrutiny Giehler's paintings reveal the

artist's love of the medium, the surface buildup, its transparencies

and creases, its rich textures and sensual tactility. During the four

laborious months Giehler dedicates to each painting, the computer

becomes an intrinsic part of his working method, but is never the

actual source of the image. The artist begins from diagrammatic

outlines rendered in felt-tip pen on acetate, which are subsequently

transferred to paper for color addition, used as a point of reference,

and projected onto the canvas. As the image is progressively

redefined, Giehler digitally photographs it on a daily basis, allowing

him to continuously alternate between the painting and the computer

screen. Experimenting with colors and design, digitally breaking the

image apart, changing its orientation, and removing entire sections,

Giehler uses the computer as a sketchbook-an arena for change

and experimentation.

The Fifth Element (2005), for instance, was a vertical painting until

its final stages of articulation. After continuous manipulations of

the image on the computer screen, the artist arrived upon its final

incarnation. Giehler's titles abound with pop culture references,

especially to songs but occasionally to movies as well-The Fifth

Element, for example, shares its title with Luc Besson's 1997 sci-fi

epic. Perhaps the title is intended to trigger certain iconographic

and visual associations with the pop-tech futurism of this film,

leading the viewer to reimagine the painting's abstract composition

as a sequence of embedded chase scenes and vertiginous vertical

cityscapes. Giehler generates a new kind of space within the

pictorial field of his canvases by balancing the relations between

depth and velocity, order and chaos. Colors seem to race by

within the resolute stillness of a painting, and it is this paradox that

characterizes Giehler's work.


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