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Bruno Griesel and the Rococo

With Bruno Griesel, we experience the full, plump appearance of German figurative painting. The fact that Bruno Griesel, although a Leipzig native and fellow student of Neo Rauch, did not play along with the New Leipzig School from the beginning is also a good thing. We see an exciting adaptation of the German reception of antiquity and rococo style and the continuation of German literary romanticism with painterly means, just as the magical realist painter Edgar Ende, also a border crosser, was continued literarily by his son Michael Ende. Griesel prepares a half-ironic, half-serious game with the motifs of art history and the history of philosophy.

Malevich's heroic deed of 1915, the setting of the square absorbing all colours as the end of the old and beginning of a new painting and Lucio Fontana's rape in the cut into the canvas of 1958, tearing the painting surfaces open to form space: these incunabula of art history have influenced him, he pays homage to them and at the same time settles accounts with them, with these main positions of a decided non-painting. In Griesel's work "Schwarzes Quadrat auf weißem Grund" (Black Square on White Ground), fractals of history and world concepts collide. We see one of the Wright brothers, quoted from a photo of the first test flight in 1909, with the flag in his hand on which Malevich's black square is applied, looking into the unknown and confronted with rococo angels made of stone, symbols of a faith that sets limits to reason. A leaden strip of the sea weighs down on the torn sky, both resting on a monochrome surface that designates empty space. Such space is the actual narrative element for Griesel, for its visualisation in painting was not permitted in the 1990s. Only the two-dimensional was allowed to spread out, perspective was frowned upon. Griesel creates, as he ironically describes it, "inverted Fontanas": the infinity of space becomes limited to the outlines of the figuration on the painting surface.

The 'entrée' of Bruno Griesel's "Rococo" project is the 'Barberine Faun', the sculpture of an intoxicated sleeping satyr, which is considered a major work of Hellenistic Greek art. Brought to Rome as early as antiquity, the satyr served as a fountain figure in a Roman villa garden. Excavated in the early 17th century near Castel Sant'Angelo, the Barberini Pope Urban VIII had it placed in the family palace on the Quirinal. King Ludwig I of Bavaria succeeded in acquiring the famous sculpture in 1820. Since 1830, the 'Barberini Faun' has been one of the great attractions of the Munich Glyptothek! Bruno Griesel has varied the antique sculpture and therefore included it in his 'Rococo' project because he refers to a copy by the great 18th century French sculptor - Edme Bouchardon (1698-1762) - which has been in the Louvre in Paris since 1892. Griesel's work is therefore a copy of a copy. The lush tendrils outside the frame on the left are intended to reinforce the "Rococo" reference.

In Griesel's work, figurativeness often manifests itself as a threefold, for example in the work "Pierrot Lunaire", the one who is illuminated by the moon, but whom the artist depicts as being illuminated by sunlight. His critical reflection on perception, namely that we can only recognise what is shone upon - a play on ideas handed down by Giordano Bruno - is implemented by one of Griesel's favourite icons: the Pierrot. He relates the credo of threefoldness or multiplicity in art to Peter Sloterdijk's demand for diversity in art. It also plays the main role in the three works "The Oval and the Bread I-III" , a downright alchemistic study of the body of the human body and the loaf of the loaf of bread, whereby the small fire salamander, the triune denudation of the girls and the phallic form of the loaf of bread refer for the artist to constant procreation and transformation in creative recycling. The white innocent-coloured egg, the mask as the real, the divine understanding of culture, just as in the Greek theatre performance the face mask appears as the real person, as well as the sequence of images to be read from left to right, which is meant to make a movement of acceleration tangible, until the dissolution of figuration into a simple circle or an ellipse that escapes into the world of quanta: these would once have been allegorically charged meanings if we all still had the agreement of a common semantics and could read them clearly.

What is primarily important, then, is that we are invited to play, just as the Rococo played, and subsequently the German Classicism and Romanticism with the elements of nature and artefact, in still lifes, with doll figures, with porcelain figurines and their size, as transfor- mations and metamorphoses from one element to another, from the large to the small and vice versa, as we see in Goethe's reverence "Will and Farewell" or in the pro- grammatically unfinished painting "Flora". A play with iconographic and cultural-historical backdrops, such as with the Enlightenment as clarification or English "enlightenment" as candlesticks that have fallen into the water, the clash of Baroque world division signs with Botticelli gestures and Dürer gestures, and finally the taking of the viewer's gaze into the picture, famously a pictorial achievement of German Romanticism, as we see in C.D. Friedrich, for example.

As "Romanticism of the Rococo" - this paradoxical formula could perhaps be used to characterise Bruno Griesel's highly complex, highly sensual imagery: a return to the theatrical play of a sunlit, this-worldly world that encloses, at the borders between knowledge and belief, a deep faith in the world, as cultivated by the early Romantic Friedrich Schlegel and as maddened into the infinite by Jacob Burckhardt - ultimately a bastion against nothingness, against the nothingness eating into the visible world of things. Bruno Griesel, as it were, reopens the black, squashed-together square of Kasimir Malevich for the unfolding of ornamentation and expansive figures, in an act full of intelligence and full of pleasure, but also drenched in doubt about the state of the world today.

Elmar Zorn