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Bruno Griesel III. ROCOCO

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very pleased to have the honour of making a few brief remarks about the artist Bruno Griesel and his latest work.

Many of you will no longer be unfamiliar with the Leipzig-based artist. His works can be found in the collections of the Kunsthalle der Sparkasse and the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig, among others. He has participated in numerous exhibitions around the globe since 1986 (for example, in New York in 2000 or in Barcelona and Shanghai in 2003). And the wall frieze he created, "The Psychology of Time", is located here at the prominent public site Specks Hof and can be viewed without restriction by every stroller and visitor.

Bruno Griesel, born in Jena in 1960, came to Leipzig in 1981 and studied painting with Professors Stelzmann, Peuker and Heisig at the Leipzig Academy of Visual Arts until 1986. In 1989 he completed his master's degree with Prof. Heisig. These key data show that the training formed a foundation stone for his successful independent painting career. Another cornerstone for the great international success of Leipzig painting and thus also for Bruno Griesel's work is the connection and thematic examination of art history up to modernism. This kind of traditionalism demands and encourages a narrative and often figurative style of painting, which in its mysteriousness challenges the viewer time and again. In the years of his work Griesel devoted himself above all to the colourful and at the same time sensitive depictions of landscapes as well as of women (dancers) and couples. Stylistically, the painter drew on art movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries such as Expressionism and Symbolism. He sometimes depicted his figures against mythological and biblical backdrops, thus subjecting them to critical, philosophical and psychological analysis. In the course of his intensive exploration of colour, Bruno Griesel began his Rococo project in 2005, the most recent results of which are presented in this exhibition.

The project was ultimately triggered by an illness of the ear - associated with the loss of balance - the "aequilibrium". It shows Griesel's attempt to sublimate stasis and immobility through art historical study of the Rococo era.

When one thinks of Rococo painting, one inevitably has Antoine Watteau's Gilles in mind. The painting from 1717 is one of the famous masterpieces of theatrical scenes and at the same time a spiritual reflection on the zeitgeist of the "fetes galantes" at the court of the Sun King Louis XIV. Lost in art, music and feeling, the figure in the painting freezes or congeals into a mere appearance that can be everything or nothing - a sincere metaphor for the painful tragedy of human life, for an uncertain existence, for loneliness and for transience. Almost all of Watteau's figures originate from the theatre, the comedia delll'arte. His landscapes as poetic transfiguration - his Arcadia - already refer to the English landscape garden and romanticise nature as a stage of beauty. Watteau's works had an enormous after-effect, were often copied and understood as a stimulus for artistic debate. Griesel was also inspired by it for his painting Weiss - Pierrot Lunaire. In an altered pose (the upright frontal posture becomes a pantomimic gesture), the figure of the boyishly handsome Gilles alias Pierrot points to three lion figures, which he seems to be sending on their journey in a theatrical (almost comedic) bow. Pierrot's almost life-size appearance seems dancelike, unstable in a bent-over posture, as if bowed by the format of the painting, and devoid of any lightness of burlesque clowning.

The lions placed before him symbolise both the animal symbol of dominance in sculptural elegance and its masculine signature of strength. The golden colour of the smallest animal allows associations with the lion as the astrological equivalent of the sun (the lion as an animal that is said to be able to look into the sun without blinking). Griesel supplements and reverses the traditional interpretation with the help of the white lion and also shows it as a symbol of the moon. Thus the painter interprets the heraldic animal, which is widespread in Europe, with its open maw, outstretched tongue and raised paw both as the embodiment of martial virtue and power, psychologically as a personality sure of drive, and in astrological symbolism as a sign of the divine/feminine idea of creation and as a changeable phenomenon comparable to the lunar cycle.

Dr. Richard Hüttel describes the scenery in the current catalogue as follows: "The artificial facial expression and the balletic gestures make it clear, especially in this figure, that someone is playing a role, that transformations are being played out here, performative possibilities of the individual! The colour white, as the dominant (non)colour in the picture, as well as the title of the picture, stands as a connotation for innocence, purism, mystery, the unification of all colour spectra, but also for the ghostly, death and mourning.

Rococo painting already showed an increase in psychological forms, the ability to evoke certain moods through the colouring of a picture, the art of arousing the longings and dreams of the viewer through the beauty of the line and nature. The Rococo ideal of beauty continues to have an effect to this day: the Venetian veduta is still a much sought-after wall decoration, an indispensable symbol of education and taste, the epitome of the picturesque. In his latest work, Bruno Griesel takes up another symbolic figure, the angel, for his pictorial analysis. At the centre of the work "Schwarzes Quadrat" (Black Square) is a male figure with a white flag on which a black square can be seen cut into. To the right and left, the protagonist is accompanied by two seemingly floating angels. The man is turned away from the viewer, his gaze directed towards the horizon indicated in the background of the picture. In the upper half of the picture, the landscape is cut, interrupted, limited by a black surface. The actors seem to be arranged in a kind of stage space, as in "Weiss - Pierrot Lunaire".

The young male figure in his old-fashioned turn-of-the-century clothes is a painterly copy of a photographic original from 1909 and shows the aviation pioneer Wilbourt Wright with a white signal flag on which a black square is applied. When the photograph was taken, the Wright brothers were launching their first official test flight, thus establishing the history of modern aviation. With his painted black square in 1916/18, Kasimir Malevich established the beginning of a new art movement, that of Suprematism. This radical reduction of painting to form and colour is still a signpost today, the black square an incunabulum and icon of modernism and the renewal of art and society. Griesel takes up the religious aspect of the icon and its functional use for prayer, i.e. the dialogue between the believer and the holy representative, in his painting. But in his work, the angels seem to be the actual messengers of the divine, the heralds of a divine will with the sacred aura of Malevich's suprematist sign. The winged human figures, which seem strange in the profane landscape, are painterly quotations from sculptures by the Düsseldorf sculptor Johann Jakob Junckers from the second half of the 18th century (1760/70). Griesel places the protagonists of biblical mythology and the theological world view in a baroque manner against the backdrop of avant-garde art history, thus creating an exciting synthesis of abstract figuration or figurative abstraction.

In this sense, the title of the exhibition "Aufbruch der Moderne" can be interpreted in two ways: On the one hand, as a progressive tendency, a movement and advance (avant-garde) of modernism towards (still) unknown shores. On the other hand, as a deconstruction and reassessment of artistic styles and motifs in contemporary art. Bruno Griesel's pictorial works are, in their entirety, tableaus of his complex philosophical, theological and, as it were, historical reflections and general ways of expressing art. With his artistic signature, he succeeds in bringing together supposedly disparate traditional motifs and symbols from different epochs across time. In this way, he addresses the prehistory, development and myth of modernism in all its complexity. Griesel's paintings are imaginings in the form of images that allow the viewer to wander through enduring ages up to the present and thus gain an idea of change and continuity, of time and eternity and the longing of art. Translated with (free version)

Thorsten Hinz