BerlinPaul Pretzer: A Pint of Passion
With his new series of paintings, Paul Pretzer opens up an unknown world of the third kind to the viewer. Against the backdrop of urban walls and niches or under an arcadian blue firmament, the artist creates chimerical creatures from his inexhaustible imagination of humans, animals, and everyday objects.
For his second solo exhibition at the gallery entitled “A Pint of Passion”, the Estonian-born artist presents his broad oeuvre of graphic art for the first time. These include the coloured paper works, drawings, small etchings and the impressively large lithographs created during his recent stay at the world-famous Edition Copenhagen in Denmark.
The motifs are striking in Paul Pretzer’s pictorial world. Thus the artist develops his protagonists in a multi-stage genesis that seems surreal in the way they are put together, situatively depicted and narrated. There are scenic depictions such as that of a skateboarder jumping over the head of a decapitated person lying on the sidewalk. Or there are portraits like that one of a young man with a broad chest made of masonry and a cherry instead of a heart („Owner of a lonely heart“). Not to mention Pretzer’s recurring art historical adaptations, such as that of a putto peeing casually on an acardian landscape and referring to Rembrandt’s „The Robbery of Ganymede” in the Dresden Gemäldegalerie. Repeatedly, the genre of still life emerges like a golden apple reproduced in a single portrait sitting on a skull carrying a grin incised into the flesh of the fruit like a joker.
Paul Pretzer uses the media possibilities of painting and graphic art as a stage for the emergence of his protagonists, who are capable of both suffering and humour. In the drawings, they are still open and unconnected, like a spontaneous idea. In the paintings they are genetically merged as if into a chimera. Thus a thermos flask is partially transformed into an elephant body with head and trunk, fruit and vegetables carry mouths and eyes and seek dialogue with their beholder.
Paul Pretzer’s paintings encounter us both as documents and as memories of playing with ever new identities, social masks and inflationary profiles. They tell the viewer about their state of self. Yet the ego is under time pressure … and is quickly driven to the next picture by the artist …
Dear Paul, for the first time a gallery shows your graphic works. These are coloured gouaches and small ink drawings as well as prints such as etchings and large lithographs. Where and when are the works created? And how do you see your graphics in relation to your oeuvre of painting?
P: The works on paper are often created on journeys or during artist residencies, which I do over and over again. The limited time and the unfamiliar circumstances demand different ways of working, and that leads to new results. I find it refreshing to change the medium from time to time. Since my time as a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden, I have always been involved in printmaking on a sidetrack. What interests me is that you have to change your way of thinking in printmaking. Especially when etching with aquatint, you have to think very carefully about what you are doing and think around three corners. It’s almost as if you need other parts of the brain than when painting. I like that. Sometimes the paths overlap. So I sometimes overpaint a lithograph or etching; or the motif of a painted picture finds its way into a print because I’m interested in the translation into grayscale.
Where do you get the inspiration for your motifs from? And has your painting changed since you moved from Berlin to Barcelona two years ago?
P: I go through the world with open eyes, and the motifs usually come to me. Most of the time I’m interested in a part of something. Let’s say a detail from a picture, an advertisement or the like. Or I see someone with a net of mandarins passing on the street in real everyday life. All these set pieces flow into my inner pool and romp around in it until certain things connect with each other to form a picture idea. It can also be something quite banal like sardine cans. They have interested me here in Barcelona recently. Or the horizon line of the sea…it appears more frequently recently. I feel very comfortable in Barcelona, but the colour has become a bit darker in the two years here.
The recurring hybrid-like beings in your pictures are fascinating but also mysterious. How is it that you develop the projection of a supposedly new species in your pictures?
P: For me, the content follows the form. That’s why sometimes such strange objects are created. I look at one of Arp’s sculptures and secretly think to myself: “You’d have to have a corrugation there, and then it’s a trunk. The trunk is followed by an arm, because the former needs a counterpart in order to balance the composition of the picture, and so on. When current themes swing quietly out of the work and people can see something in it, I think that’s good.
“A Pint of Passion” … where does the title of your exhibition take us?
P: First of all, the title of the exhibition sounds nice and round. I’m interested in the sound at the end, and what the letters do with the mouth when you say it out loud, almost more than the content. But then my pictures also often generate feelings and emotions in the viewer. They become, so to speak, the recipient’s resonating space. Everyone can more or less passionately fill it with his or her own… The (art) world needs more feelings and passion. Nowadays there is too much spiritual dryness…
Paul Pretzer was born in 1981 in Paide/ Estonia and has lived and worked in Barcelona/Spain since 2017. He studied at the Muthesius Kunsthochschule in Kiel (2002-05) and at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Dresden, where he received his master’s degree from Prof. Ralf Kerbach in 2009.
The artist received the Robert Sterl Prize of the Sammelstiftung Dresden (2009) and several grants for his artist in residencies such as bspw.e at the Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha (2009), at the Espronceda Center for Art and Culture, Barcelona (2015), at Tartuensis, Tartu (2017) and most recently the Gushul Residency in Baltimore, Canada (2019).
Paul Pretzer regularly presents his work internationally in solo shows such as at FeldbuschWiesnerRudolph, Berlin (since 2016), Marc Straus Gallery, New York (since 2011) and previously at Zodiac Gallery, Omaha (2019), Estonian Printing and Paper Museum, Tartu (2017), Städtische Galerie, Dresden (2013), HamishMorrison, Berlin (2008-2012), etc. Pretzer’s works often find their way into thematic group shows in international institutions such as the Espronceda Center for Art & Culture, Barcelona (2019), the Tatjana Pieters Gallery, Ghent (2019), the Städtisches Museum Überlingen (2018), the McNay Art Museum, San Antonio/ U.S.A. and others. (2016), at the Kunsthalle zu Kiel (2012), at the National Gallery Jakarta/Taman Budaya, Yogyakarta/ Indonesia (2011), at the Freie Museum, Berlin (2010), at the Kunsthaus Baselland, Basel (2009), etc…
all images © the gallery and the artist(s)