The compelling power of inner pictures, whether in painterly or sculptural form, is a fascination. Indeed, it develops only when it pertains to an experimental game with imagination within a dialogue-driven constellation with its own dynamic. Through Florian Pelka?s paintings floats a blissful melancholy ? the deep palette of twilight that builds up and tops off not only between the works, but also between the works and their viewers.
What is first noticeable is that Pelka?s images as a whole aim into the essential, the formal and material-specific, but also into the intellectually and art-historically saturated ? and yet still remain afloat, unexplained.
It seems to me as if Pelka works like a novelist on commas and long dashes. This occurs first on a small scale, as if he is feeling out his immediate proximity, but then increasingly in concentric circles, in a spiraling movement up and down through the eras.
These days there´s a thick layer of dust on the more fundamental kind of dramatic existentialist feelings. Only in second-hand bookstores are absurdity, existence, desperation, alienation and such things modern, and if you believe the clairvoyants, everything in our society can be healed, paid for, or post-modernizable. Is this really true? Against Generation Golf?s unfounded exhilaration and the thin craftiness of aesthetic fast-food chefs, against being only medially well-versed, against surfing over global surfaces or the semantic drifting of all vestiges of existentialism into the cool pop-literati?s elegiac cigarette smoke rings, Pelka sets his view on the run of things ? things that he, in contrast to the counterfeiters of the future, sees as not so banal, and not so indifferently. Instead of flushing away overtones with an extroverted demand for affirmation, this painter knows to cryptically weave them into an enormous impact of color that possesses the power of introspection.
In painterly terms, what catches the eye is that the canvas consists of a conglomerate of liquid and solid, the smoothly painted and rabidly scratched. At times, surfaces are cracked and the paint application ragged, like dark don?t-touch-me thickets of emotion. These are again fed with a kind of flowing property one would not normally attribute to oils; something that also brings coincidence into play. There are presumptuous, possessive, dogmatic paintings ? this one here wants to clutch at nothing but rather lets emotions and thoughts run free. It is its earthbound power, materialized with all kinds of binders and additives, into whose mysterious safety zone one can flee into.
Here, we are dealing with images that are acutely aware of their time and whose statement wants to scrape with reality without neglecting the demand for simultaneous ?timelessness?. Trivial objects from our modern world, such as a camping chair, awning or shopping cart, are brought into the picture plane?s foreground. Added to this are trivializations of nature, which crops up, for example, as a palm-tree wallpaper pattern or a pedestrian zone?s planters, as the stylized corona of sunlight, or blossom-formed bowls that could also be stage furnishings from a TV show. The human appears, at most, as a stylized figure: as a cherub, a Playmobil figure, in the form of a scarecrow or in the pictogram for a woman. Quotations of cultural elements such as classical columns, balustrades and decorative garden fountains also provide dubious references to people.
These artifacts and alienating set pieces from nature and culture liberate themselves anarchically in the images? color fields, create spatially modeled scenarios, and pull the viewer into the depths of romantic panoramas ? without clear narration or the unity of a central perspective. But we aren?t standing here in a deconstructed reality in which the question of meaning could simply explode like these soap bubbles in front of the temple. Even visual fragments of our consumer society are emblematically glorified; not without irony but still related to a painterly-authenticated desire for reality. Inevitably the viewer is caught in the subjacent demand of explanation of the motifs. With Pelka, the concretely decisive refers to something beyond itself, to the symbolic. Within this vocabulary of abstract icons and pictograms, the painterly possibilities of representation are inexorably questioned. In a countermove, the viewer is exposed to the pull of the image?s narrative strengths via animal motifs, which often appear to be random but are mythologically loaded.
The artist connects to classical iconography with motifs of the swan, horse and ape. Here the swan bears the insignia of eros and potency in the classical era, also with the aspect of two-faced behavior. The horse betrays its wisdom not rationally but through the power of magic, transformation and divination. The ape, in pictorial tradition, had to indeed serve as the fool or even represent the painter. But this animal ? particularly through the most recent research ? primarily asks the question of the nature of intelligence and the use of symbols.
Of all primates, the human possesses by far the heaviest brain at an average of 1250g. In second place is the gorilla, at around 500g. Brain size alone, however, is not a reliable guide to the mental capacities of animals. Whether gorillas are aware of their own identities is still a controversy. Scientists have often presented animals with a mirror and observed their reactions, with contradictory results. Experiments in which gorillas have been presented with depictive pictograms or even completely abstract symbols, however, have yielded far clearer results. After a very brief training period, the animals are well capable of dealing reasonably with a representation of reality that is merely arbitrarily determined, and can satisfy their desires via this functional connection between symbol and object.
Here, it was exactly our ability to communicate with abstract symbols of written and image language that could designate our specifically human cognition in the best, most innocuous way. What kind of metalevel do we need to secure our own human identity? In post-modern times, the answer is increasingly difficult. As an exemplar of our ancestral connection, the ape appears in Pelka?s paintings as a counterpoint to the artificial plastic world with its decorative-garden effect. But because the ape is so close to us, it is, in its wildness, a counterpart that is also laden with our desires.
Whether we recognize ourselves in Pelka?s paintings, infused with icons, clichéd images and art-historical references ? or who slips into the tragicomic, vis-à-vis the ape ? is something observers must decide for themselves. Behavioral researchers are still speculating on the mental performance of humans as they observe images.
So Pelka?s paintings do not depict ensnarement in real life. They are, much more, a ?dreamcatcher?-like study of the breaches in human cognition. And we see how the artist works on the threshold between conscious and unconscious, how he operates with painterly surprise effects, with paradoxes and inversions, how compartments of form become autonomous in the process of creation. Stairs lead to nowhere, horizons shift and merge into surreal subsurfaces that destabilize the plot and allow only a precarious equilibrium.
Such images express nothing outside the self-situated and already extant, but rather feed directly off the artist?s desire for form. Such images are a settlement of existence, ex-sistere. They are what protrude into the unknown, into the things we didn?t do, that elude our control, that suffice in themselves: the unavailable in all its beauty and danger.
While the paint flows, the artist suffuses his theme, which he then drives into narrative seduction, into formal abstraction, into emblematic compression ? into a dynamic of transferal that eccentrically demands expression but is also open to a sense of morbidity and spectrality.
Like a spoken musical score, Pelka develops his paintings and pulls the viewer into an echo chamber that he no longer wants to leave ? or, caught in the trap of a deeply symbolic framework, is no longer able to leave. In intense Bengali colors, buried in the edges of our memory, a cycle of images is shown that is free from intramundane promises of pampering; it rather lays bare the lightness of being with extremely inventive calculation.
Pelka?s slaughtering of the paradises; his aiming at the wonderfully fictional via notch and bead, are two sides of a coin from which the paintings speak in silence, concentration and from a consciousness that segues into the real.