Ingo Nussbaumer the figure of the picture

"Every deception as every fake makes an adverse impression. Wax figures, for example, will always be repulsive, the more deceptively similar they are made. A painting must present itself as, made by man, yet it must not try to deceive as being like nature"
Caspar David Friedrich

A darkness, as if opening up by its own accord, lays itself over a structure of partly velvety, partly seemingly shining lines and strokes, a transparency, in which bundles of lines appear neither light nor heavy, yet they achieve utmost saturation, a pictorial space that curves both inwards and outwards, bends, meshes, opens up – in outlining characterisation – the figure of the picture (1): catalogue of works number XVI (2) Peter Wechsler.

The onlooker takes an active part, as there is no given distance from which the picture reveals itself. Left, right, both middle front and for back – each gives a different impression which selects (3) itself into a wholeness of the picture while the spectator walks/paces the distances and thus changes perspectives. From that follows a negation of hermetism.The athetic formation (4) of the density and pictorial structure, i. e. the neither – nor of lightness and heaviness, of brightness and darkness, of looseness and stringency, of flow and stability, which becomes concrete on a new level, prevents – on thorough observation – an impression of compactness.

In this context it is of significance that a pictorial term (5) is clarified by the figure of the picture. In the pictorial term the synergy of the picture (imago) and impression (impressio) becomee an inseparable unity, that is one pictorial unit: what has made concrete becomes applied thory and distracts itself from the randomness of structure without becoming a coerced space, a coerced structure. Even though we are dealing here with a proposition (German: Aussage) of a painting (in contrast to the gist of a sentence), which is made up of several components of a painting, it can only be, so to speak, simultaneously comprehended (simul et non succesive) (6) through the totality of the pictorial unit of the picture. This way a spiritual power of the picture comes into being, which can also be called imaginative potency. In the pictorial term the imaginative energy of a painting expresses itself first-hand and all at once.

The drawing number XVI exemplifies the above said in several ways: The lines as the elementary constituents of the picture unfold only in association with the other lines. Bundled and condensed, they form bundles of lines. They make up the constituents of the following, higher level-that of pictorial space; they form a synergy together with other bundles of lines and take on a structure which is commotion in itself, it becomes darker, lighter, withdraws, curves, forwards, creases and shimmers. The darkness and heaviness, which seem to lay themselves on the whole painting by means of the high degree of condensation of lines, cancel each other out again through the dynamism of structure and display a weight of their own through imaginative presence. The brightness of the paper which shines through in some places creates a transparency in the wholeness of the structure. A pictorial space opens up wherein the dimensions of the picture suddenly gathers momentum and finds its very own language in the picture.

Translated from German into English by Kornelia Mikula.


`The abstract´ term `the figure of image´ is used here to indicate a categorical structure, starting from which the piture can be characterised and deciphered. In mathematics, logic, grammar and rhetoric a. s. o. we also talk about figures even if they are not graphic objects, like triangle, square and circle in geometrical terms, yet all objects have some kind of wholeness in common. Three terms (darkness, transparency, pictorial space) were used above to describe the figure of the image. This does not mean, however, that the figure of the image is exhaustively covered by them or that it can only consist of these three terms. back
Peter Wechsler catalogues his works in two ways. Roman numerals denote long-term projects, Arabic ones stand for short-term, that is, ongoing projects. back
The term `selected´ was deliberately chosen. It is to indicate that – out of the wholeness of impressions – the more significant ones are chosen over the not so significant ones. back
Re: the term of athetic formation and configuration, see my essay `Die Idee des Blicks, Zur athetischen Konfiguration von Zeichnung und Malerei´ in: Peter Wechsler, Geometrie der Hand, Triton: Wien, 1998. back
From the middle of the nineties, when G.Böhm (see: Was ist ein Bild? Gottfried Böhm, München, Fink, 1994, p.13ff. ) introduced the term ‘iconic turn´, this pictorial term has been among the more noted categories of the theory of art. It presupposes the existence of an iconic view, which can be differentiated from a linguistic view (see also: Max Imdahl, Iconic, Paintings and their viewing, p.300ff/ Bilder und ihre Anschauung, Seite 300ff ). back
The term `simul et non successive´ derives from the vocabulary of Descartes – Regulae ad directionem ingenii ( Regeln zur Ausrichtung der Erkenntniskraft): Regula XI,407,16,Hamburg 1973. It is in context with the modern differentiation of intuition and deduction, intuitive and discursive thinking. back