September 18 - October 31 | San Francisco & St. Helena
"They detonate a series of ideas and emotions that allow him to take on the challenge of the empty canvas."
Patterns of life and art proliferate in German artist Ralph Fleck’s densely textured paintings—flower fields, packed bookshelves, piles of papers and boxes, aerial cityscapes, and churning water. Even more than observations of our physical environment, they are explorations of order and human production, the kinds of patterns nature and people create, and how those patterns intersect with art. As German art historian Wolfgang Längsfeld has said, he is a "painter who delves passionately into the structures of physically explorable reality.”
Fleck’s canvases play up the relationship between paint, with its formless, viscous, potentiality, and the real world, with its set lines and surfaces. Though at any moment, he seems to suggest, one world may morph into the other. He even paints images generated by art-making itself, depicting color swatches that double as geometric color fields, or the dabs and smears on his palette, which winkingly mirror works of expressionism—paintings of paint that shift between abstraction and literal reality.
In a subtle way, his paintings are concerned with the technology of seeing. His images of fields and interiors often recall zoomed-in photographs, a quality that German editor and critic Hans-Joachim Müller, in a catalog essay on Fleck’s work, traces back to Walter Benjamin’s ideas about art in the era of mechanical reproduction. It’s as if Fleck’s paintings are an act of resistance against the imagery that has flooded the modern world, “substituting narrow reproductions of reality with his own strong pictures.” Meanwhile, his cityscapes take a zoomed-out perspective, as if from an airplane or drone. Winifred Wang, a prominent art critic and architect, notes that they are about “ambiance,” the essential character of the cities themselves.
Fleck's process centers on moment-by-moment interactions with the canvas. A painter obsessed with capturing the raw essence of his subjects, he is concerned with the immediacy of brushstrokes and the tactility of paint. Whether he’s painting a field of golden flowers or a wall of urban apartments, his colors create a shimmering fabric of shadows, highlights, and splashes of unexpected hues. Lothar Romain, a Berlin-based critic and curator who authored monographs on Andy Warhol and Joseph Beuys, compares Fleck’s use of impasto and changing color patterns to late-period Monet: “The rich impasto application becomes the inner structure of the painting, but never totally lets it representational origin out of sight.”
Born in Freiburg, Germany, Fleck studied at the State Academy of Fine Arts and has been widely collected throughout Germany and Europe, including at the MKM Küppersmühle Museum of Modern Art in Duisburg, Germany; the German Embassies in Brussels, Lima, Madrid, and Paris; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Freiburg, Germany; the Royal Bank of Scotland Art Collection in London; and the United Nations building in The Haugue, Netherlands.