Text: Sophie A. Gerlach

Translation: Brian Poole

Roaring and raging behind impenetrable fog, one can glimpse a place that just might be the origin of the world—a boundless breadth of nature in its most unsullied form.

The forces of nature, melancholy, and longing, and yet also a fine sensitivity to the uniqueness of nature, appear united in Clemens Tremmel’s latest paintings. His journey to Iceland last year left a deep impression on the artist, the results of which can be seen during the exhibition “Ur” at the gallery Morgen Contemporary, running from the 5th of July 2014. The young artist uses the motifs and techniques of the old masters in his works, thereafter destroying parts of them in a conceptualist intervention. With impressive artistic maturity he extends his skilful hand to the forebears of the romantic period; yet he remains entirely contemporary in his intentions. At times subtly, at times empathically, the painter denounces the agitation of our modern world, while simultaneously indicating a metaphysical resolution in the path toward nature.

But in our contemporary world, such a return to a primordial origin is no longer attainable in any simplistic manner. The spectator is forced to search for what the painter has destroyed, and thus to listen to himself and to comprehend why the ideal of nature in its true form no longer, or just barely, exists. The small formats of these paintings function as a filter helping to tame the violent power of Iceland’s natural landscapes; the large formats in the series, by contrast, are monumental in every respect.

The individual is cast back upon himself. As in works by the grand old master Caspar David Friedrich, the individual appears to be yielded up to the mercy of nature’s expanse. Indeed, what began in the romantic period—the dissolution of the collective, the emergence of the individual’s own consciousness with all its concomitant responsibility and the fatality of one’s own actions—is also depicted here, and this couldn’t be more topical.

At the same time, the pictures—once again, in Romanic manner—are mediators and windows to the infinite (Novalis). The interventions on the canvas occasionally seem to resemble dancing nature-spirits or spectra (Island 3 & 4), never entirely graspable, yet palpable. But precisely where Clemens Tremmel’s conscious encroachment upon the unity of the images seems so furious and painful (Island 3 & 6), the observer is called upon to face the confrontation the artist has sought.

The fine balance between subtlety and brute force, between nature and artistry, between historicity and contemporary spirit, creates a fascinating allure that is not easy to resist.