Two artists, two media: in a clearly structured double exhibition, Priska Pasquer is presenting paintings by Hanno Otten and glass sculptures by Tristano di Robilant. An exciting juxtaposition focusing on artistic approaches to using materials, techniques, colours and shapes.
Hanno Otten has been working on his “Über Malerei” (About Painting) series since 2004. From this body of work, which has not been exhibited to date, eight large-format studies on canvas are to be displayed, together with 150 small-format studies on paper, card and canvas, hung together to form a dense tableau. With the title La maison de pommes de terre potato print dla Europy, 55 unique prints by Hanno Otten have been produced as a special edition for the exhibition. Priska Pasquer is presenting an overview of Tristano di Robilant’s sculptural oeuvre with fifteen glass objects from the period 2007-2016. A selection of individual bronze and ceramic sculptures will also be on display.
Hanno Otten (born 1954) is an artist whose work is a result of many years spent devoted to a single theme. He has explored colour for many years, taking an almost scientifically systematic approach. Another theme in his art is war. Since 2004, Hanno Otten has systematically explored the mechanisms underlying painting by posing fundamental questions: What is painting? How does painting work? Rather than seeking answers through intellectual analysis, he finds them in artistic, artisanal work. This is because he is interested in being able to understand how painting works by seeing it with his own eyes. Delving into this question has given rise to a number of different groups of work that Hanno Otten has subsumed under the title “Über Malerei”.
What is painting made of? Which effects are achieved by different techniques? How do colours interact? How do motifs change the impact of colours? These are the kind of questions explored by Otten in a series of new approaches. His materials: graphite and glimmer paste, oil and acryl, spray, paint and oil chalk on paper, canvas or even wood. His approach: experimental, open, provisional – this goes for technique as well. This means that, while he uses “traditional” materials such as brush, pencil and scraper, he also works with painting tools that he found or fashioned himself. In his hands, paint can lids serve as stamps and washing up liquid bottles are used to administer dosed amounts of paint.
Otten’s investigations about painting come about in concentrated series. Because the format also influences the impact of the medium, the artist experiments with small paper sizes as well as with large canvases. This spectrum of motifs ranges from monochromatically smoothed colour surfaces to dots, stripes and lines and spirals, squares, meanders and sprayed formations. Sometimes he positions closed colour blocks on a non-grounded canvas – or multi-coloured dots on a white background. This is always with a view to observing how painting works: How do the colours sit on the surface? How does the woven, flexible structure of the canvas influence the artistic application of paint? How do the colours behave towards one another? What role is played by limitations and openings.
Observing the studies together, it becomes clear that small variations lead to major changes in effect. At the same time, the sketches form a visual grammar for the medium while standing alone as works in their own right. Painting is a language that we understand through our eyes. Hanno Otten’s series of works “Über Malerei” explores the grammar of this language.
Hanno Otten was born in Cologne in 1954 and works with a variety of media including paintings, drawings, photograms, sculptures, installations and film. He studied art in Höhr-Grenzhausen, Cologne and Kassel between 1973 and 1985. He lives and works in Cologne. Priska Pasquer devoted two earlier individual exhibitions to him in 2014 and 2016. Otten’s works are featured in important private and public collections – including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Houston Museum of Fine Art, Busch-Reisinger Museum/Harvard Art Museum and Microsoft Art Collection.
Born in London in 1964, Tristano di Robilant grew up in Italy and England. After studying in California, the sculptor – who has Italian-American roots – now lives and works in Rome. He also has a studio workshop in Umbria.Tristano di Robilant originally developed his sculptural works using traditional means, his materials of choice being clay, bronze or even aluminium. Since 2005, however, the artist has worked predominantly with glass. Joining forces with highly specialised glass craftsmen in Murano, he has since created an unmistakeable body of work.
With its translucent materiality and brilliant surface, glass interacts with changing daylight. Fascinated by this aspect, Di Robilant develops extremely unconventional objects with this material. Out of biomorphic forms, he creates fragile-looking compositions: smoothly modelled cones upon which transparent snowballs appear to balance, stacked mushroom caps, bubbles surrounded by rounded cylinders, glass plants and structures made of layered shapes. Most of the objects are monochrome, some consist of two colours. While the palette is concentrated on a small number of colours, green and gold are the dominant shades after colourless glass.
Di Robilant’s glass sculptures give rise to an exciting interplay of opposites: the light, fragile appearance of the mouth-blown objects are at odds with their actual material weight; their smoothly modelled shapes have a crystalline hardness, while their tangible physicality dissolves into transparency. Again and again, his work addresses the relationship between inside and outside, between shell and nut. In a number of works, Tristano di Robilant also combines glass with polished bronze. Here, shells of delicately coloured, transparent glass surround mirror-like, reflective metal elements.
Raised in an intellectual environment, Tristano di Robilant came into contact with art and artists at a very early age. Of these, two well-known names are particularly worthy of mention: he became friends with Sol Lewitt and he was often to be found in Cy Twombly’s studio who was a good friend of his mother’s and his goodfather. Twombly’s sensitive approach to mythological themes and historical topoi made a profound impression on him. Literature, philosophy and history also serve as an intellectual breeding ground for his own works, as can be seen from the titles. For instance, “Jacob’s Dream” is a reference to the biblical story of the ladder to heaven: five red struts are embedded on the inner walls of a honey-coloured glass body. Beneath them lie two pieces of red glass – perhaps the broken bottommost step? The sculpture “Sisifo Doppio” tells the story of Sisyphus, who was damned to push a boulder up a hill for all eternity. In reference to the endless repetition, Di Robilant fashioned not one but two hills and boulders out of colourless glass and set one inside the other.
Another sculpture is simply called “1600”. It consists of three irregularly shaped conical vessels. A small green vessel is overlaid by a colourless vessel, which itself is set under a larger green glass. The work came from the period that Tristano di Robilant spent exploring the life and work of Giordano Bruno. The Italian priest, poet, philosopher and astronomer was burned at the stake as a heretic in Rome in 1600 because he was unwilling to renounce his theory of an infinite universe. With the three forms within forms, Di Robilant refers to Bruno’s vision of a multitude of worlds.
In the age of increasing digitisation and dematerialisation, art is gaining a whole new importance. With its haptic materiality and concrete singularity, works of art demand our entire attention in the here and now. This applies in particular for Tristano di Robilant’s glass objects, which interact with incoming daylight, taking on a new appearance every time. In the last twelve years, Tristano di Robilant, who also writes poetry, has built up a sizable body of sculptural works with an unmistakable, poetic style that is on display here for the first time in Germany.
Tristano di Robilant, born in London in 1964, studied at the University of California in Santa Cruz. He lives and works in Rome and in Ripabianca, Umbria. His works have been shown in numerous international individual and group exhibitions, most recently in the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego. Some of his works are also featured in the collections of the Maxxi Museum in Rome, the Museo del Vetro in Murano, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo and the Sol Lewitt