From pop strategist to color poet
Bernd Luz has a collector’s instinct. But it’s not things that the artist and graduate communication designer from Neuhausen ob Eck diligently collects, but eye finds, impressions and images that everyday life washes towards him, so to speak.
On his wanderings, the advertising expert, who also studied photo design, uses his camera to capture things that could enrich his “collection”.
But also the collective stock of images, more accessible than ever thanks to today’s media technology, proves to be a treasure trove for his densely woven thematic tableaus, which attract the eye with brightly colored painting grounds and hold them captive in a network of associations.
The media mix collages by Bernd Luz skilfully creep into our perception and invite relaxed viewing because they do without criticism or provocation and just as little demand brooding questioning.
Rather, the artist calculates and plays with the viewing habits of his contemporaries, builds on the familiar and makes use of the recognition effect.
He is not concerned with the subliminal revelation of reality, but rather with the abolition of the boundary between everyday life and art. He lets art into his life and life into his art – in the spirit of Pop Art, which he and his works follow.
In the footsteps of Pop Art
“For me there is no difference between art and life,” once proclaimed Robert Rauschenberg, a main representative of Pop Art, which shook up and revolutionized the art world in the 1960s because it was the first modern art movement to had a rapid, broad and effective success with the public. It was then that commercial imagery entered art, making it easily accessible “popular” to the general public. Tempting, glamorous with stimulating colors and a thoroughly decorative appeal, Pop Art made its way into the collective consciousness – to this day.
Many of the pop icons such as A. Warhol, R. Rauschenberg or J. Johns originally came from the advertising industry – one poster painter, the other decorator – they were very familiar with the practice of “creating a world of illusion” and they took this knowledge with them into their art .
But it was not only the modernity of the pictorial motifs, but also the freedom of the means that have since shifted the valid coordinates in the field of art. Suddenly there were countless ways to free yourself as an artist from having to invent a technique, a style or an imagery in order to produce something new. Pop artists took the liberty of referencing different themes and images, adopting a style at will, and employing unusual production methods.
And because Pop Art is neither to be understood as a style nor as a school (its manifestations were too disparate), but rather as an approach, it was able to prepare the fertile ground that the heirs of Pop Art still till today. Borrowings from or parallels to Pop Art can also be found in the work of Bernd Luz, such as the perfect mastery of the media world (if only for professional reasons), the recourse to cult images, the conscious interlinking of design and art and the open handling of commissioned work, that is the commercial exploitation of his pictorial inventions.
His pictures arouse emotions, they want to please and they find their audience in numerous exhibitions in the region, but also far beyond the borders.
The media mix works peppered with image quotations, which are dedicated to various thematic complexes, have an “appealing” effect. The representation corresponds to the principle of collage in the isolation and rearrangement of the elements – and here too Bernd Luz sets out on the trail of the pop artists.
Apart from the forefathers of collage, the Dadaists and Surrealists, the Combine Paintings by R. Rauschenberg may have been the inspiration for his special compositional style. It was he who developed new pictorial possibilities from the collage principle by including black and white and color photos in his oil paintings in the printing process.
Bernd Luz proceeds in a similar way when he photographs and computer-processes emblems of our culture on the canvas painted with acrylic paint using contemporary solvent printing (a digital printing technique) and in a further step accentuates them again with painted interventions.
The resulting combination of painting and photomontage on the one hand emphasizes the action of the artistic design and on the other hand gives the picture an indefinite multi-dimensionality in which the layers of color and motifs interpenetrate as in dreamlike visions. The compositional interlocking of collected image reproductions, embedded in suggestive color spaces, resembles painted sketches in a certain way, on which quotations, notes and visual finds of the most diverse origins come together and stand side by side on an equal footing. The art consists in bundling the spatially disparate, the temporally separated, the artistically different, the own and the foreign in a convincing visual statement.
Here Bernd Luz proves to be a skilful arranger. He succeeds in staging excerpts as a reference to complex connections in such a way that entire stories unfold on the screen. It is possible that the experience he gained with film work in his youth will come to his aid.
In the cityscapes, he takes the viewer on a virtual journey: Venice, Vienna, Paris, New York … appear in the mind’s eye based on their respective landmarks and unfold their magic. Cult motifs such as flower power and woodstock evoke an epochal attitude towards life and icons of modern times (Elvis) as well as classics (Goethe) evoke pioneering cultural achievements, albeit of very different kinds.
But that too is pop, the equal treatment of the trivial and the sophisticated, the blurring of the line between mass culture and high art. Nowadays, high and low culture have long been in an inspiring alternating tension and dealing with former contradictions is relaxed.
Last but not least, the works of the artist and designer Bernd Luz draw attention to this and therefore city tableaus, animal portraits (eye to eye with eagles, wolves, bears and Co.), the homage to historic racing (present in a permanent exhibition in the Musée National Cité de l’Automobile Mulhouse) and many personalities with cult status grow together coherently within a catalog of works.
“I implement what touches me,” says Bernd Luz, successfully evading classification into fixed categories.
Abstract color spaces
There is now another, comparatively new facet in the artist’s work. This has already been created in the Mediamix work and has now “taken on its own”. What used to be background and accompaniment now becomes the main actor: the colour.
Renouncing any representational allusion and figure, Bernd Luz leaves himself and the picture surface completely to the interplay of colour, structure and light. Instead of the tightly interwoven network of motifs in the collages, there is a purely illusionistic color space, usually dominated by a color that sets the tone (“Sentimental Yellow, …Red, …Blue”).
The approach is no longer conceptual, but mood-driven. Instead of designing a decipherable image of reality, the reality of the picture is reflected in painting – the motto is to think with the color when painting.
“Sometimes I imagine the colors as living thoughts. Beings of pure reason that I can grapple with.” This Cézanne quote, to which Bernd Luz dedicated one of his compositions, is programmatic for his current work phase.
In these abstract mental images, strips of color, drawn across the surface with a squeegee, provide structure and direction: crossing, accompanying or overlapping, mostly transparent, flowing or set as if in staccato, they give the pictorial space depth – seemingly unlimited. The viewer “enters” the opening color spaces and is captivated by the moods that can be experienced with the senses.
The atmosphere of this painting is reinforced by lines of poetry accompanying the pictures. Word and image work together, according to the formula “Ut pictura poesis” once coined by Horace – poetry is like painting. In other words, the poem is a speaking image and the painting is silent poetry. Both poetry and painting obey the same structural laws and touch the soul.
Bernd Luz is a creative spirit, versatile and busy, but regardless of whether it is a poetic, atmospheric color space or a dense motif collage, he remains true to himself and his innermost concern: he is concerned with communication, because that connects people – and is not them Art the most beautiful form of communication?