THERE IS NO TIME
May 4 - 27, 2023
Opening Reception: Thursday, May 4th, 5:30-7:30 PM
By Mark Van Proyen
Dolby Chadwick Gallery is pleased to present There is No Time, an exhibition of new work by Udo Nöger.
The Latin language provides us with different words for two distinct kinds of light. One is Lux (from which we derive the word luxury), referring to the way that an external light source describes and reflects the subtle undulations of a given surface. The other is Lumina, indicating an emanation from within an object, almost always connoting a Platonic idea of living spirit pre-existing earthly embodiment. The former might prompt us to think of Baroque sculpture or Mannerist painting, while the latter points us toward the Byzantine icon and the Symbolist dreamscape. Rarely do we see both notions of light inhabiting the same work of art.
Udo Nöger’s paintings exemplify that kind of rare moment. Like desert mirages, they reveal and conceal themselves to play subtle tricks on eyes overly accustomed to the precise parsing of increments between foreground and background. They evoke the twilit moments experienced at sea or on a snowbound prairie, times and places where thick mists obliterate any accurate reckoning of distance. They are saturated with nuances pertaining to the relationships of light and the ephemeral, at once reflective, refractive and projective. They conjure the time-honored truism stating that art can reveal the invisible, but only if you let it show.
Nöger’s paintings are large enough to envelop the viewer’s cone of vision, but not much larger than that. They are fashioned from unusual materials presented in three layers, two lurking behind the picture plane and another establishing it. The front and back of these are formed from unusual fabrics woven from a blend of silk, satin, and cotton, facilitating translucence from one viewing angle or reflective opacity from another depending on the shifting angles of available light. As the beholder moves laterally across any one of them, he or she will note that shadowy silhouettes emerge from and disappear into the amorphous picture plane. These are created by the middle layer of cotton canvas, the only one to receive subtle glints of color-- usually gray-green or gray violet to intimate the optical discrepancies that might be apprehended by untired eyes. These provoke quizzical double takes while also undermining any attempt to pin down what the imagination thinks that it may have just seen.
Given their celebration of ephemerality, Nöger’s paintings might prompt West Coast viewers to compare them to the work of southern California light and space artists such as Robert Irwin, Larry Bell or Maria Nordman. Nöger himself downplays those associations, instead pointing to the work of the Argentine-Italian artist Lucio Fontana (1898-1968) as a primary influence. Fontana created works that simultaneously foregrounded and undermined the authority of the picture plane by physically lacerating it, providing glimpses of what lurks behind. In the case of Nöger’s work, a more complex shadow world is revealed, keeping the viewer guessing as to whether friend or foe might lurk within.
Nöger’s paintings reach back to Plato’s originating sense of the term aesthetics, meaning to intuit or apprehend something prior to applying a categorical name to it. Yes, they are about light understood from both a practical and symbolic standpoint, but they are also about its unstable fluctuation, calling illusory certitude into question. In that way, they are related to some recent observations coming from the field of theoretical physics. Here, I refer to the relatively new idea of quantum foam, which understands both solidity and its absence to be unreliable illusions bred by cognitive misperception. Quantum foam theory postulates that the subatomic particles from which everyday reality is formed are everything and nothing at the same time, all at once, fluctuating from matter to anti-matter and from waves to particles in a perpetual state of undifferentiated simultaneity. Nöger’s paintings remind in subtle and sensual ways that the world that we imagine ourselves to inhabit is in large part a psychological projection cast upon a screen of undifferentiation. They accomplish this by showing the screen, allowing us to differentiate as we may, or may not.
Udo Nöger was born in 1961 in Enger/Westfalen, Germany. He has lived and traveled all over the world and currently maintains studios in San Diego, Miami, and Geneva, Switzerland. Nöger has exhibited extensively across the United States, Europe, and Asia, and his art can be found in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Haus Der Kunst in Munich, among others. This will be his third exhibition with the Dolby Chadwick Gallery.