André Butzer

Read More / Selected Works

Verloren

1999
oil on canvas
200 x 135 cm

Butzer consolidated his own painterly form of expression through his experience with a collective artistic practice. The artist was engaged with Albert Oehlen's 'postungegenständlicher Malerei' [post-unobjectified painting], a concept that stands for the 'renewal' of Abstract Art. It is about asserting the authority of a painting by simultaneously wiping out a given spatial and figurative composition, a composition that is not reduced in the process but rather contains an abundance of the most diverse painterly processes.
Butzer's encounter with the work of two other artists was also decisive in terms of content and, above all, method. The artist is interested in Edvard Munch, especially the use of colour in Munch's later work, and he continues to be fascinated by Asger Jorn. In comparison to Oehlen, Jorn's painterly starting point ends up going in a completely different direction. Inspired by the pictorial formulas of Picasso, Klee, Miró and others, Jorn also picks up Abstract Expressionism in his later paintings. However, Jorn's work breaks with the existential seriousness of the American artists from the Pollock generation; his colourful, thick compositions are always over-grown with child-like, anarchistic and grotesque figures.
Reflecting these painterly starting points, Butzer's picture world begins to take shape at the end of nineties with conglomerations and figure-like characters, which seem to emerge from autonomously-fixed splotches, strokes and curves in the paintings. Take Verloren [Lost], 1999, which illustrates figures brought together through a formal building block system. These figures originate playfully from a seemingly ornamental application of smudges and brush strokes; in the process, the outlined human 'something' becomes identifiable, above all through its endpoints head, hands and shoes.

Thomas Groetz, Painting and Good Health in Chips und Pepsi und Medizin, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin 2003 

H-Mensch

2000
acrylic on canvas
210 x 150 cm

Taking a further step, this painterly formal gesture leads to characterisation. Butzer calls the first generation of his painted creatures, which sprung to life simultaneously, Schade-Menschen [Shame-People] and H-Menschen [H-People]. H can stand for 'H-Milch' [H-Milk], for example, or even for 'H-Bombe' [H-Bomb] and thus points to the disintegration of a body image that only has just been born – a body image that one can imagine in the wake of an atomic catastrophe or a similar act of annihilation. What is born is a being that is too porous for its environment, whose borders with respect to its surroundings are made clear through colour values lacking contour.

Thomas Groetz, Painting and Good Health in Chips und Pepsi und Medizin, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin 2003 

Friedens Siemens I

2000
oil and acrylic on canvas
230 x 165 cm

Friedens-Siemens I is executed with a wealth of colourful micro-forms, which are joined together in a patchwork way and display a head complete with a face as the only form that comes close to being human. As a counter-point to the pure painterly structures, Butzer adds concrete words and concepts to the painting, including corporate brand names like Bosch, IBM, Sony, Coca-Cola, BMW and Sinalco. The anonymous power associated with these Western capitalistic multimedia conglomerates stands in grotesque tension against the barely-recognisable human being and its miserable body image. The subjectivising word pair Friedens-Siemense works in a similar way as it grotesquely stitches up two spheres of content, whose connection is disconcerting and recalls the war industry, the forced labourers fund and similar things.

Thomas Groetz, Painting and Good Health in Chips und Pepsi und Medizin, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin 2003  

Friedens Siemens IX

2001
oil and acrylic on canvas
200 x 250 cm

The body that can hardly be discerned in Friedens-Siemens I is rigorously abandoned in the following paintings of the series. The heads in Friedens-Siemens IX and Friedens-Siemens X appear to have been separated from the torso and now float in space, blown up to gigantic proportions. This lift-off goes along with a reassured way of painting; the brush strokes appear more even with less thickness and no longer form figurative tangles, where corporeality was born in earlier paintings.

Thomas Groetz, Painting and Good Health in Chips und Pepsi und Medizin, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin 2003

Frau vor dem N-Haus

2002
coloured pencil on paper
21 x 29,7 cm

His own method is perhaps nowhere more clearly and precisely demonstrated than in the publication Frau vor dem N-Haus, 21 drawings in coloured pencil, reproduced almost one to one and each one using the same motifs, a woman, her look, the N-House and a path. Every one of the drawings tells the story afresh, puts another figure in the picture, turns a red line and the paper into blonde hair, juggles with the eyes and almost drops the balls, as if they had forgotten that they have to hold the gaze, crosses nose and mouth into pious silence or perhaps just the mask of the same. This world always stays remote from the conclusiveness of its constellations, even when the basic situation clearly repeats itself, just as children's drawings never answer the question of what is exactly intended, and their style functions here as an amplifier. The distance between variation and repetition is made absolutely plain in this little publication, is measurable as an unforced absence of intention, that with its tools – a few sticks, dots and ribbons – enters into the picture. It accepts the elusiveness of all lines as a condition, it knows the resistance of its implements. A picture does not come into being one to one, but one to twenty; it cannot be fixed in a single outline, colour and function, but is constantly produced afresh by the observation and movement of these elements.

Roberto Ohrt, Dangerous Game in André Butzer. Das Ende vom Friedens-Siemens Menschentraum, Kunstverein Heilbronn 2004

Chips und Pepsi und Medizin

2003
oil on canvas
295 x 440 cm

In this most recent series of oil paintings André Butzer – gently, in large formats, taking recognizable figures like those in comic strips and using colour as a signal – approaches the medium of Pop Art and in this way formulates his own historical consciousness, his objection to a logic of progress, according to which the art of the Sixties is supposed to have totally devoured all its predecessors, an objection which is in tune with the answer which Philip Guston gave his contemporaries in 1970. André Butzer actualizes his work, but not only in the history of art or in some context that is substantiated there, he also wants to get to the societal meanings that are inscribed in Pop, for example to the role of the heroes of the mass media or the language of industrial culture, which is still to be seen today in the animal world of consumer goods, walking potatoes, jumping crisps and brightly coloured chocolate Smarties. This tension comes out especially clearly in the new oil paintings, but the range of themes and techniques in Pop have interested him for a long time, the possibility of slipping into the skin of painting and appearing with the effect Pop Art.

Roberto Ohrt, Dangerous Game in André Butzer. Das Ende vom Friedens-Siemens Menschentraum, Kunstverein Heilbronn 2004

TODALL!

2003
oil on canvas
220 x 220 cm

Accompanied by unpredictable warning signs like Schande, Massenfrieden, or TODALL!, André Butzer opens up this social significance in picture titles, poems or short, manifesto-like statements. These too inscribe the signifiers of industry, of factory production and the culture business onto his characters. They present them as the agents or products of a business, active on its behalf or manufactured by it. At the same time these indications touch on the 'world-political' dimension of the frame, but they do it without becoming too heavy or ponderous. 'Siemens' is the signature of German industrial power, 'Anaheim' is an invitation to American entertainment culture, and this movement runs at first quite classically from East to West, that is from Europe in boots across the big pond to the salvation of the New World – which is therefore named Wanderung, a trek that leads nach Anaheim.

Roberto Ohrt, Dangerous Game in André Butzer. Das Ende vom Friedens-Siemens. Menschentraum, Kunstverein Heilbronn 2004

Johannes der Täufer

2004
oil on canvas
315 x 220 cm


The universe theme also illustrates what moment in time is marked by the so-called abstract paintings in the artist's work. Here we are possibly dealing with the night-time, rear or inner side of the cheerfully coloured, bucolic imagery that normally features funny folk making their entrance. Eternal twilight has fallen in the land of the Friedens-Siemense and H-Menschen and sometimes you think in the almost no longer existent light, in the rays of the darkened sun, that you can discern patterns of blind facial landscapes with their sculpted oval eyes and their rivulets beneath, which you can identify as the once so innocently smiling mouths of the Friedens-Siemense. Accordingly, the air, the energy has escaped from these inflated faces. Predictably, they ultimately ex or imploded. Nevertheless, their presence remains perceptible as an extinct star or as a strange creature which has been made unrecognisable by showers of falling ash after a fire.

Thus, no catastrophe seems really able to destroy the fundamental patterns in André Butzer's imagery; which is why the answer to the question whether this is about abstraction is actually no. Blackening out or the use of another perspective on a subject which per se already has no stable existence (like the beings with balloon-like heads) is not synonymous with any false emancipation of purely picturesque or purely painterly means. Darkening and emptying is illustrated here as the drama of a real or artificial existence or rather left unresolved as a touching and powerfully painted question – the question as to what man is made of, whether his materialisation tragically already heralds the start of his decline and what, if anything, contributes or might contribute to the preservation of his species.

Thomas Groetz, In the Latrines in Haselnuß, Verlag H+K, Berlin 2005

N-Technologie (tote Körper)

2006
oil on canvas
280 x 460 cm

Commenting on the primitive nature of 'civilized' society and its contradictions with naïve amazement at the spectacle, André Butzer's Nasaheim is an earlier series about the inhabitants of a fabled town where Disney meets its science fiction doppelgangers. NASA is the acronym for the famous space agency, Anaheim is the home of that American utopia called Disney World (“it's a small world after all!”) located in the mid-sized Californian municipality of the same name with a population estimated to reach 400,000 by 2014.
It is this notion of urban systems and social structures that pervades the work of André Butzer; as if tuning in to the dictum of our collective unconscious he consorts with his own psyche to paint these palimpsest pictures of egregious man conscious with the knowledge of his generations history intact. Our flaws are not only of our own making, but also the organized manipulations that our controllers have implemented through time immemorial. Now Enlightenment ideals have been thrown out of the window; the age of Entitlement eroded, the wheels have stopped.

Max Henry, Butzer's Cave in Viele Tote im Heimatland: Fanta, Sprite, H-Milch, Micky und Donald!. Gemälde/Paintings 1999-2008, Kunsthalle Nürnberg 2009

Untitled

2008
oil on canvas
340 x 260 cm

Grey chasm backgrounds provide a primordial edifice where deeply engaging layered images emerge. Conceptual false geometry provides a seemingly jubilant celebration of painting, of color. There is a pace to the brushstroke, however it seems much more settled, deliberate, more peaceful than its predecessors (imagine Pollock sober, or Stella in a linen suit). Here we have a careful, evocative repetition of tone, but not function (an emotive quality not really seen since Rothko). Each painting is remarkably original while following an essentially consistent painterly pillar. Contrary to motif inspired artists, Butzer presents what feels like a new thought in each piece. As though the author of the canvas has just done this for the first time, again.

Travis A. McMichael III, The Death of Recursion in André Butzer, Galerie Max Hetzler / Galerie Guido Baudach, Berlin 2009

Ich will erstmal 'ne Cola

2010
oil on canvas
450 x 290 cm

In 2010, Ich will erstmal 'ne Cola [I Need a Cola First] bursts violently and unannounced into the course of Butzer's work – and yet, it is a different, altered, kind of violence than was present in his initial sadness, or murderous anger. It is a fierceness of pictorial means.

In examining the differences between Cézanne's early pictures such as the House of the Hanged Man or The Murder, up to the later Bathers paintings, Friedrich Teja Bach pointed out that the latter bear evidence of a 'brutality that has „vanished“ - an act of violence which, though essentially transformed, nonetheless remains present in the form of a disturbance. What at first appeared upon the surface to be drastic in terms of motif was reformed by Cézanne over time into a drastic pictorial profundity: his maturing serenity over the painterly process causes him to transform representational gestures of aggression – such as the penetration of a body by a knife – into an abstract gesture – such as the impingement of a vertical line or axis by a horizontal one.

Christian Malycha in André Butzer. Der wahrscheinlich beste abstrakte Maler der Welt, kestnergesellschaft Hannover / Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Hannover 2011

Mutterbild

2011
oil on canvas
280 x 460 cm

A few years back Butzer pointed out that he had, on many occasions, already emphasised how 'painting consists of flesh and lemonade. In the Renaissance they knew it's about flesh and water.' Indeed, with this statement – interjected by the lackadaisical exclamation I Need a Cola First – he has in fact proclaimed one of the old 'holy truths' of painting. Initially, painting was by all means comparable to Biblical exegesis: incarnation – becoming flesh. Though certainly true that images were not equal to God or Christ, they appeared to incarnate them both by means of pure colour. Though this exegetical capacity of painting has been long since lost, the highest purpose of painting was once to translate the distant blue of the Heavenly Kingdom into more worldly or tangible terms – into golden Eathly flesh. Now appearing rather bizarre, this mystery once occupied all painting in its entirety.
Acutely aware of the significance of the incarnation, Butzer still employs commensurate seditiousness in confronting the painterly foundation of the world, personified by his own 'holy family' – one comprised of the abysmally sad Vaterbild [Father Painting], the tyrannically rigid Mutterbild [Mother Painting] and the childishly flippant I Need a Cola First -, with the end of the world, its flesh having been consumed by a brown decoction of cola as though dissolved by the acids until, with strictness and severity, all forms are melted down into the essentially imageless N-Paintings.
The initial painterly arcanum, however, remains untouched by the process; for, were these pictures literally explainable or comprehensible, they would not be (exist) at all – much in the way that flesh, in painterly terms, in no way needs to be made of flesh-colour.
It is only within this permanent state of exception that pictorial sovereignty can be granted. You cannot picture a likeness of N.

Christian Malycha in André Butzer. Der wahrscheinlich beste abstrakte Maler der Welt, kestnergesellschaft Hannover / Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Hannover 2011

Untitled

2011
oil on canvas
280 x 460 cm

For him, these 'grey' paintings are indispensable, especially in that they are invariably connected with an obtainment of clarity and with contemplation as to the nature of the pictorial means. As such, they allow the conceptual upheavals that counsel his paintings to be positively discernable. Butzer's affirmation of his commitment toward the destruction of illusionistic representational pictorial means – in order to arrive, once and for all, at abstract pictures which do not simply imitate abstraction but are rather abstract from within themselves – is thus clear (with pictures such as Mörder, moving onward toward the Friedens-Siemense to the Haselnuß paintings and all the way up to the present subsequent abstract pictures) from the outset – so that solely the picture as motif – as pictorial motif – is allowed to remain an all-encompassing picture-motif.

Christian Malycha in André Butzer. Der wahrscheinlich beste abstrakte Maler der Welt, kestnergesellschaft Hannover / Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Hannover 2011

Untitled

2013
oil on canvas
200 x 194 cm

 “My painting started to become clearer with these paintings. Because you know, earthly geometric art, I would say, is the core of the ready-made thinking. The right angle is the core of the ready-made. But you can't create a right angle. That's it, that's already done and you have to trust it, but I don´t trust it. So I said ok, I have to get to this point where I can prove again that painting doesn't know anything about the right angle, that a painting, an image doesn't accept the right angle. Never. It only accepts God and the light he sends. That's what the painting accepts and that's something else. So that's how I came to "right angles" that look all in all more or less round, imprecise, but MORE PRECISE. Then I realised that these structures are like a peaceful matrix for painting. 'Matrix' translates as well into something close to the word 'mother', it's something that gives birth. So if you see the matrix, there is no end, it's only the beginning, it gives birth to painting.”

André Butzer in conversation with Jean-Marie Gallais in Remember Everything: 40 Years of Galerie Max Hetzler, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin 2014