Stefan Müller – Allerliebste Tante Polly (Favourite aunt Polly)

Stefan Müller – Allerliebste Tante Polly (Favourite aunt Polly)

At first glance, Stefan Müller’s works appear abstract. Roughly defined rectangles, often casually painted, fluctuate in unstable relationships through a painterly space of bleach, splashes and colour gradients. In other pictures, countless folds, created by the batik technique, break up the colour-impregnated canvas into a spectrum of vein-shaped lines. The background of the picture is reminiscent of the nebulous images of galaxies streaked with milk roads or distant mountains on faded pages of an atlas. Against this background, traces and recesses often dance, which are caused by adhesive tape, dirt, crumbs or ash residue – deliberately included in the priming process with imponderables that have been incorporated. The artist follows these coincidences, allowing himself to be guided or deterred by them in the setting of new shades and forms, correcting or even emphasizing them. Then there are again places where oily inner surfaces – soaked up by nettle cloth – run as an entourage of pastose luminous colour applications. Curls overlap and cut through each other until their acrylic and bleach streaks unfold uncleanly intertwining suction effects. Some of these forms can be read as references to other painterly discourses. Thus, the curls described are partly reminiscent of Kenneth Noland’s target motifs or of Poul Gernes, but as if they were heavily washed out and slipped. However, the recognition of references and quotations is not decisive for reading Stefan Müller’s painting. This painting is not a lecture about painting. It is more interesting to look at Stefan Müller’s handling of canvas, paint, material and technique less abstractly and more as a concrete examination of longings, relationships, one’s own experience and the everyday search for transcendence. Lines and figures, for example, whose colours flicker during their vague progression, associate states of mind. Or there are colored stripes from which drippings are released, which in turn cross and recolor other underlying colored stripes and thereby change themselves; like people who meet other people. Elsewhere, crayon lines condense into spirals that circle around themselves like thoughts that lead to no conclusion. Again and again, the artist falls back on forms of experience that were taken for granted in childhood, but whose use was then lost at some point on the long road to adulthood; processes that exist outside the logic of being too something to use. Thus there is the beautiful title of an older painting from 2002, which explains this simply: “Looking too long into the sun”. The abstractly painted circles in the picture are recognized by the title as something absolutely concrete and simple, as reflections on the retina; an experience that is both personal and at the same time shareable with others. Through his almost romantic insistence on the simple yet fragile connection between personal and aesthetic experience, between experiencing and sharing, Müller has succeeded in keeping his work out of the tricks and feints of post-conceptual painting assertions symptomatic of the noughties without becoming solipsistic.

Søren Grammel
(Curator of the exhibition)

The exhibition is supported by:
Land NRW – Ministerium für Familie, Kinder, Jugend, Kultur und Sport
Stadt Köln
Stiftung Kunst und Soziales der Sparda-Bank West (Jahrespartner 2013)
Rhein Energie Stiftung Kultur