Being faithful to my concept of 'les deux', Werner Büttner's contemplative painting entitled “Bathing Russians (1984)” appeared to offer a suitable polarity to Thomas Jaax’s improvisations, the driving force of his work. The 70-year-old artist states that these have become more 'natural' in recent years; it is no longer an inner 'battle' that drives him to paint or make music, but a state of 'dreamwalking'; he describes this state as one of lightness, of weightlessness. In his younger years, the artist suffered from somnambulism, also called "sleepwalking" in German and it is a term synonymous with dreamwalking.
In some, if not all, of the paintings, (all of which remained untitled, and were painted in the period 2015-2017), this ' battle ' can nevertheless be discerned; the 'Id', the unconscious is perceptible in the worn felt pasted over the already existing motifs like the masked faces, and also in the paint running down the canvas, reminiscent of blood - for everything is repainted and pasted over.
This creates a dynamic, a struggle between life and death. In the "Bathing Russians" by Büttner, there is no such sense of battle. Just the boots and the neatly folded uniforms, all painted in the brown colour palette typical of his style during this period. The sea, the waves, the absence of people create a gap, wherein the Russians can bathe in the sea - or end up belly flopping into it. It remains open to the viewer to let their imagination wander.
The artist Werner Büttner, who is almost the same age, painted this picture in 1984 featuring two pairs of boots. He painted the same subject, with three pairs of boots, in 1982 as a response to Gorbachev's ban on alcohol.
Curating this show during the outbreak of war in Europe, my hope was to illuminate 'the thing', the ever-repetitive drive to destruction and death manifested in Putin's aggression towards innocent people in the Ukraine. The command « Forward March! » (The Russian army being led by an authoritarian male figure who does not tolerate any dissent), shows that the signifier of the Other, still has so much power. The subject is lured in by lies and false accusations, their desire to identify with the leader of the group prevails more than ever.