Galerie Zu den Arbeiten Nahansicht Text Katalog Ausstellungen Biografie Einflüsse Kontakt Home
  Eye-Tourists in the Unknown

Thoughts on the paintings of Stefan Hoenerloh

Socially organized beings tend to erect large buildings for common use. The architecture of Man possesses the greatest variety of aspects transcending mere usability. Aesthetic ones, for instance. Symbolical ones, too. We know, from the work of Günter Bandmann at the latest that cathedrals are also a reflection of Heavenly Jerusalem. Villas reflect the taste and the self-understanding of those who had them built. And urban architecture reflects customs, and misdemeanours, of the society which made it. All this is even more true when architecture becomes the subject matter of a different art, painting. Once the art of building becomes the motif of painting, such as in the work of Stefan Hoenerloh, one has to reckon with more than just an interpretation of architectural ideas.

Stefan Hoenerloh is a very extraordinary painter. A modern painter with a perfect mastery of Old Master techniques, one who therefore can show and let come into being anything he wants to. Stefan Hoenerloh`s great subject is architecture, the built city. But only in sections. He doesn't create city panoramas as a painterly vision of a past, existing or future city architecture. A section of it is in focus, just as oneself can only see sections of a city in which one perambulates. One recognizes the architectures Stefan Hoenerloh puts on canvas, in multiple layers of transparent coatings. And yet one is misled. The buildings, patinated by time, may convince by their detailed correctness in every corner and cornice, but they are not real. Hoenerloh isn't a tourist in Venice, Marseilles or Salamanca who has exchanged the camera for a brush. Even though the oblique lines in the paintings may, at first, suggest a photographic viewpoint, or that we are confronted with photographs or paintings after photographs. His painted buildings are pure fiction. They stand nowhere outside his paintings. And that is why they can speak of more than real architecture is able to, that is why they stand everywhere. The incorporate a notion of city architecture beyond the architectural confinements that real architecture is bound to suffer from. And that is why they can speak of more than the real architecture we encounter just around the corner or at the banks of the far-away Newa.

Hoenerloh's buildings do not give us a crash course in the history of styles. They unite the styles of city architecture and architectural decoration between Renaissance and Classicism and their neo-forms without being sworn-in on their basic concepts. This is an internally logic correspondence to renouncing the depiction of real architecture.

From this double fictionality they gain the force of impact on the beholder, independent of his or her experience of life, age, gender, and social position. Independent from how these backgrounds may influence the viewers's relations to the paintings of Hoenerloh, the kernel of those is universal, explorable via the sensual impression, the visual experience.

There is, firstly, size. Hoenerloh's paintings do not necessarily possess monumental dimensions, but monumentality clearly is a characteristic of the buildings he paints. One reason for that is that he doesn't paint little cottages but large buildings with many storeys. Buildings we hardly see the whole of, but mostly in just that kind of view from below (sotto in s) that makes us smaller and the buildings even bigger. The speak of a will, a power and a tradition which goes beyond us and our means, which is social and therefore super-individual.

That is also why Hoenerloh's choice of ãclassicalÒ forms instead of the individualistic modern ones is appropriate. Collectivist modernism is out of the question, as it is aesthetically bland. And he puts the onlooker into relation with these big complexes, who has to define his or her position in relation to them, who has to activate the inner world of thoughts and emotions, in order to give life to the painted worlds.

And then there is emptiness. No humans, no animals Ð and you don't see any plants either Ð inhabitate Hoenerloh's houses. None you can see, at least. The buildings do not seem to be out of use, yet. There are, however faint, traces of their being used. And if it is the beholder who has to ignite his thoughts and emotions, then it is the beholder, too, who lives here. Or his or her friends and acquaintances or relatives he pays a visit to when entering Hoenerloh's paintings with his eyes. At least it could be his or her acquaintances.

But there is also another possibility. The beholder can also be an eye-tourist in the unknown, suddenly coming around a corner and encountering a view he has never seen ore at least not in such a way. An experience related to one quite many have had. Walking through a strange city one sees something, one thinks to know already, to have seen before. In a different life, maybe. But it is not a real dŽjˆ-vu, as one doesn't really know it. This Hoenerloh's paintings provide presque dŽjˆ-vus, things one almost might have seen before. This uncertainty and the tension between things past and things possible is the source of the charm of these paintings.

And then there is time. The houses in the paintings are old, gnawed upon by the teeth of old blind Chronos, covered by the dust of many a decade, washed by the rains of many a hundred autumns, attacked by the weather of countless years. Their patina, dirty and distinguished at the same time, points to the dignity of age (what has age got, if maybe not dignity?), shows that they have been there for longer than we, the beholders, shall ever be. They thus show themselves to be superior. They tell about time.

Time is endlessly fascinating. Not even physics, the maybe most advanced science, has come to grips with it. Physics believes time to be relative and that it can be stretched by speed. Thus physics proves to be poor, as it cannot understand, with its own means, that it only measures effects acting on the time-pieces (as they are material). Time itself is absolute. It goes on permanently, an endless beam. Without beginning, without end. Time has always been and will be forever. You cannot travel in time like you can in space. What was is gone for good. What will be, nobody knows.
Even if there were a space-craft flying faster than light, it could not get into the future, as it hasn't happened yet, and from the past it could only see some rays of light. Light also is subject to the rules of thermodynamics Ð it ends in irrevocable chaos.

All this provokes fear (angst). Stefan Hoenerloh is full of fear. And so he tries, an heroic albeit futile effort, to bring everything to a standstill. To pile up islands within the stream of time, which will not be washed away. This, of course, doesn't work. And the beholder, sharing Hoenerloh's fear of time, notices it. The houses tell about time, of time that has been. And what we admire in old walls is probably the countless number of threads of life that were spooled off within them, the many a thousand long faded cries of pain, of lust, of joy, the endlessly far away echo of a faint crying of a little girl reverberating silently between the walls, the sorrowful sighs of mothers, caught between the wooden beams of the ceilings, the drunken ramblings of the men which trickled from the deep niches through the windows, the trample of feet both big and tiny of many a generation before us and whom we are bound to follow. And the melancholy in front of the old is nothing but an encapsulated grief on the knowing of the certainty of one's own death.

Painting the old walls is Stefan Hoenerloh's way of banning these demons. Each painting a candle in the magic circle. Each brushstroke an incantation. And Hoenerloh concentrates on the buildings. There is no dramatically cloudy sky. The sky remains impenetrably covered, maybe the backdrop, sometimes, for an expressively jagged skyline, but mostly just the source for the almost tender, evenly distributed light in the painting, leading the onlooker in to the picture, like a distant friend, gently putting an arm on his shoulder.

Once you are in the imaginative space of the paintings, you can see the details which enhance the experience. There are rooms one cannot live in even though it might not seem so at first. There are large parts of buildings which do not enclose any rooms, even if one thought it to be the case at first. There are the balanced pairs of oppositions, the stairs leading upwards and downwards, the ponte dei sospiri which connect the seemingly unconnectable. All this leads to a rich yet paradoxical experience of architecture by means of painting. It is painting which makes clear what architecture is and what it cannot be. And it shows through itself what it can offer in possibilities of knowledge and understanding, of perception and cognition. Both for the painter and the beholder. Thus painting becomes a symbolical concretization of the experience of the world.

And there are the patterns in the patina, which look like painstaking registrations of material decay, but which turn into autonomous aesthetic patterns at closer scrutiny. They enjoy a markedly self-governed life within the frame of the painterly execution of the pictures. Because that is also what Stefan Hoenerloh's paintings always are: Painting showing itself as such.

Gerhard Charles Rump