Raffi Kaiser. New works

Raffi Kaiser’s (b. 1931) “New works” feature removed and at the same time narrative nature moments and landscapes based on memories of trips taken to the Middle and Far East. Over the last decades the artist has focused on just one visual theme: landscape. He sees traveling as an artistic and inner necessity.

The drawings on view in the current exhibition were created in the last three years – a time the artist found marred by health problems, until he thankfully recovered fully a short while ago. At no point did Kaiser stop making drawings.

Against this backdrop, the spectrum of works assembled here spans small formats, in which Kaiser recalls seemingly organic mountain formations, medium formats showing mysterious places with deep ravines, desert islands or trees that seem as though they could almost talk, and large, characteristically elaborate landscape formats created recently. These are distinguished by the sweeping gaze and a more global perception of nature. Despite their formally animated appearance, Kaiser has also imbued all of these pieces with an emptiness associated with East Asian ink painting.

The medium-sized formats produced in recent years appear like reminiscences of certain moments and places – natural sites. This impression stems from the expressive narrative force of the intuitively modelled hills, caves and chasms. Embedded in the white emptiness of the paper, they seem lost in reverie, almost like visions.

As our gaze wanders across the landscape we come across narrative contrasts of shapes, movements and moods time and again – forces acting together or against each other. An open dialogue of nature plays out in front of the viewer’s eye: boulders rise up, obstinate and rough, while sand dunes meander off elegantly. The black abyss gives off a menacing yawn as delicate, airy, seemingly dancing ridges of hills roll by. Natural spectacles of tension and release. Using nothing but the humble medium of drawing, Kaiser thus gives expression to the sensuous physicality of landscape.

Despite this somatically palpable approach, at the same time the viewer senses the inapproachability of and reverence for the primal force and expanse of nature. Alongside the captivating monochrome and the emptiness used as an intrinsic compositional device, formally speaking this enigmatic character may be traced back to the absence of human figures and the forgoing of light and shadow. Thus freed from time and space and beyond purely outward reality, sometimes even fantastical elements surface in subtle ways here. In their unconventional approach and silent meditative inspection, Kaiser’s drawings of nature gain a timeless aspect. Particularly with a view to the chosen medium, this makes them an exception in contemporary Western art focused on the depiction of landscape.

Pauline Drichel
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