Ralph Fleck

Hans-Joachim Müller
"Informel with Order"
Frankfurt? No, he does not have a particular, particularly close relationship to this city. Dwell there? May be yes, may also be no. Well, he has found memories of this city. On a foggy morning, on a snowy day, this, that or the other skyscraper. At any rate, Frankfurt means to him a strong sensual stimulation, if not he wouldn't have been able to paint it.
It is not much; we get to know by the painter Ralph Fleck about his pictural ideas. He is more interested in painting itself than in the objects of his painting. Out of this subject you might create anything. "City" is - to him as a painter - a very good occasion. No more, no less.
Just in 1987 Ralph Fleck had dealt with Frankfurt in painting. He took photographs, he gathered, observed, forgot, invented. His kind of research is not the one of a journalist, it does not aim for truth (in the sense of objectivity). Ralph Fleck demonstrates himself in all his paintings as someone retinal infected, as an active victim of silent and loud sensations who has to realize his sensations. His city-paintings thus do not depict the town, do not point to topographical, historical, essential or characteristical interests. They are impressions only, optical experiences, emerging from the painter's condensed space of experience; sensual induction helps the painter again and again to stand the provocation of an empty sheet or a white canvas.
Painting to Ralph Fleck is absolutely essential. When he is painting, he feels satisfied or is at odds with himself. A day he has passed in his studio not having achieved a veritable pictural result has not been a successful day, and this dissatisfaction can actually only be repaired in front of the canvas. All these signs indicate a superior impulse, give the profile of desire.
It would be wrong to suppose Ralph Fleck to feel passion only and exclusively for one metropolis. There is something strange about the economy of his energies. Stocks of desire and curiosity, evocating long series of subjects seem almost mysteriously inexhaustible. Again and again themes may be recalled, seeming fresh after months, either years. This means: Fleck does never take series to final completement, but leads them to cross each other; he retakes subjects getting newly inspired, excited, calmed. It has much to do with energetic impulses, with liberty and with decisions happening very fast, with what is happening in his extremely vivid studio - but absolutely not due to strategy, mechanics and faith to conception.
The aerial view of a city and after that, probably the Matterhorn. A town in ruins and in between a landscape. Bridges crossing a river in quick succession with a "nature morte" with dead dolphins. Manhattan's skyline and a pan over the eighth arrondissement of Paris. How to make any sense of it? Better not even think about it.
Nothing seems to be impossible or excluded in this eruptively increasing oeuvre, but not even to be foreseen or logical.
Fleck fixes grates onto his papers and canvases with broad dynamic or slowly drawn brushstrokes, the images get transformed directly in his head into prospering color-substance. Mixtures of colored stuff with smooth pulsating or sclerotic zones in which the eye, daring to come closer and closer, may get lost, loose itself, risks to become immersed in. Some steps of distance to the picture help to clear the impression, help to obtain a general idea, untie the objects out of the spectral stuff. It is just there the painter himself feels at his aim: at the small ridge between description and abstraction. Ralph Fleck is not a "realist" in the naive creed that painting should work as mimetic reproduction, if not people (we already miss them in Fleck's paintings), than almost of the world and the appearing subjects of world. On the other hand Ralph Fleck does not regard himself as a painting discoverer of the transcendent - possibly searching for secret topics far away from visible reality. "Informel with order" he himself claims the tightrope act, leading him on is way from the one aspect in determination of painting to the opposite one and afterwards back again
There is no way out that beyond the hot coloristic lava this painter expulses without interruption, subjects almost have to dissolve. And that the first compelling impression we get from his paintings is the one of almost color, throwing up to landscapelike reliefs. But it is also right that Fleck does not use his pictural ideas just as an impulse for processual painting. The motive itself keeps to be the true motif that makes him paint. And the irritation that makes the oeuvre seem programmatically trackless results from the painter's relation to the reality of life. Ralph Fleck's painting reflects this actual sensation that the always-claimed order of things has become obsolete. The painter in the postidealistic epoch discovers to be homeless and uprooted in a world of things and experiences without hierarchical order, quality or priority. And without any chance to turn back to a metaphysical sense of security which could imagine a condensed reason behind things and relations. Things are what they seem. Appearance is already everything. And "appearance" is the central theme in Ralph Fleck's painting. The bombing of Frankfurt thus is not meant as a code, the painting transmits no political statement.
In this century comes true in triumphant manner what was Walter Benjamin's vision: reality of life has nearly disappeared behind its total reproduction. And consequently the point of departure in Fleck's painting is this technical epidermis. Not only memorating photography, also minimalisation or monumentalisation in the chosen details follow the logic rules of zooming optics - will mean, everything is due to technical viewing and not to his desire for the sublime or pathos. Man, in the mass-media society, find himself completely surrounded by images, and with his generation Ralph Fleck has become too sceptical to believe in a truth promised behind those images transferred by a technical mediated world. He prefers to substitute the place in front of the narrowly closed settings by reproduced reality. By his own, strong self-confident pictures.

The author is editor at the Baseler Zeitung and wrote this text on the occasion of an exhibition of Ralph Fleck's "Frankfurt-pictures" in September 1987.

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