From pop strategist to paint poet
Bernd Luz is a collector by instinct, but objects are of no interest to the artist and graduate communication designer from Neuhausen ob Eck, Germany. He busily collects a wealth of visual impressions and images which he encounters on a daily basis.
The advertising expert (who has also studied photo design) captures anything on his wanderings with the camera that could enrich his “collection”.
Collective bodies of images which, thanks to today’s media technology, are more accessible than ever, also offer a treasure trove for his densely interwoven topical tableaus, works which draw the gaze of onlookers through their powerful colours and captivate them in a network of associations.
The media mix collages created by Bernd Luz masterfully pervade our consciousness, inviting us to relax and relish them while, simultaneously, avoiding any criticism or provocation and, equally, demanding little brooding scrutiny.
The artist prefers to count on and play with the viewing habits of his contemporaries, building on the familiar and exploiting the recognition effect.
He does not aim to reveal or expose any subliminal reality in his work, but rather endeavours to lift the barrier between everyday life and art. He lets art into his life, and breathes life into his art – perfectly in line with the spirit of pop art, a genre which he and his work seek to emulate.
On the trail of pop art
“For me, there’s no difference between art and life”, proclaimed Robert Rauschenberg, one of the main proponents of pop art, the movement which created a powerful stir and revolutionised the art world in the 1960’s, being the first art movement of the modern age to gain rapid success and influence the public on such a broad level. Commercial images made inroads into the world of art at this time, making it easily accessible to the general public and simultaneously “popularising” it. Alluring, glamorous, with stimulating colouring and an in every respect decorative appeal, pop art charted its course into the collective consciousness and has remained there right up to the present.
Many pop icons such as Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg or Jasper Johns started their lives in the advertising sector, with some painting posters and others working as decorators. They were more than familiar with the creation of an illusory world and utilised this knowledge in their art.
But, aside from the modernity of these pictorial motifs, it was also the freedom with which media were used which, ever since, has altered the accepted perceptions of art. Artists could suddenly embrace countless options which freed them from the constraints of inventing a technique, style or imagery to create something new. Pop artists were free to draw on different themes and images, to appropriate any style they wished and to take advantage of unusual production methods.
And, because pop art should neither be regarded as a style nor school (its manifestations being too disparate), but rather as an approach, it provided the vehicle to prepare the fertile ground on which the heirs of pop art today cultivate their work. The influence of and parallels to pop art are clearly evident in Bernd Luz’s work, such as a perfect mastery of the media world (if only for professional reasons), a recourse to cult images, the intentional interleaving of design and art and an open attitude to commissioned work or, in other words, the commercial exploitation of his visual images.
His pictures arouse emotions, aim to please and reach their audience in numerous exhibitions in the region and much further afield.
Media mix work
His media mix works peppered with image citations dedicated to a variety of complex issues are particularly appealing. The depiction reflects the collage principle in terms of the isolation and rearrangement of elements, and Bernd Luz is also following in the footsteps of pop artists in this respect.
Aside from the forefathers of collage, the Dadaists and Surrealists, the paintings which Robert Rauschenberg called Combines have clearly been a force behind his special composition style. Rauschenberg was the creative spirit who developed the collage principle in his day to exploit new imagery options through the incorporation of black-and-white and colour photos in his oil paintings using the silkscreen process.
Bernd Luz employs a similar method. Using acrylic paint applied to a canvas as a background, he transfers photographed and computer-edited emblems of our culture to this surface using contemporary solvent printing (a digital printing technique), then accentuating these in a further painting application stage.
On the one hand, the association of painting and photomontage emphasises the action of artistic design, while also lending the image surface an indeterminate multidimensionality in which layers of colour and motifs permeate and emerge as if in a fantastical vision. The compositional interleaving of collected image reproductions, embedded as they are in suggestive colour spaces, resembles in a way a series of painted sketches on which quotations, notes and visual discoveries of different origins all meet and are ranged equally next to each other. The artistry here is the marriage of the spatially disparate, chronologically separated, artistically different, the familiar and foreign in a convincing visual statement.
Bernd Luz proves to be a skilful and dexterous arranger in this respect. He succeeds in orchestrating different details and glimpses to indicate complex correlations in a manner which weaves entire stories across the surface of the image. The experience he gained working in film in his youth possibly aids him in this.
In his city images, he takes the observer on a virtual journey: Venice, Vienna, Paris, New York … the landmarks of all these metropolises emerge before the mind’s eye and unfold their unique magic. Cult motifs such as flower power and Woodstock bring the mood of an epoch to life, while both modern (Elvis) and classical (Goethe) icons conjure up pioneering cultural achievements of, admittedly, the most varied kinds.
But that too is pop – the equal treatment of the trivial and sophisticated, the blurring of the boundary between mass culture and high art. High and low culture alternates easily today in an inspirational juxtaposition, and what were once regarded as contradictions are now approached in a relaxed manner.
Not least due to this do the works of the artist and designer Bernd Luz attract attention and, consequently, city tableaus, animal portraits (face to face with an eagle, wolf, bear and co.), the visual homage to the historic sport of motor racing (in a permanent exhibition at the Musée National Cité de l´Automobile in Mulhouse, France) and many personalities with cult status merge in a coherent ensemble within a single catalogue of work.
“I depict the things that move me”, says Bernd Luz, thus successfully avoiding his inclusion in any fixed categories.
Abstract colour spaces
In the meantime, the artist’s work has begun to exhibit a further and, by comparison, completely new facet, a facet which was already evident in the media mix works and has now attained its own independence. That which previously served as a background and played a supporting role has now taken centre stage: the colour.
Dispensing with any objective allusions and figure, Bernd Luz surrenders himself and the surface of his image to the interplay between colour, structure and light. Instead of the rigidly interwoven motif of collages, a purely illusionistic colour space is created here, usually dominated by a leading hue (“sentimental yellow, …red, …blue”).
No longer conceptual in nature, the procedure adopted is guided by mood and atmosphere and, instead of a decipherable portrayal of reality, the reality of the image is reflected in a painted form, the mantra being to let the colour do the thinking when painting.
“I sometimes imagine that colours are like great noumenal entities, living ideas, creatures of pure reason. With whom we might correspond.” This quotation from Cézanne, which Bernd Luz has dedicated one of his compositions to, is programmatic in his current creative phase.
In these abstract mental images, swathes of paint drawn across the surface with a squeegee give them structure and direction, crossing, concomitant or overlapping each other, mostly transparent, fluid or scored as if in staccato, they lend the pictorial space depth – seemingly unlimited depth. The observer “enters” the colour spaces which open up, allowing himself to be captivated by the sensuous moods which are manifested here.
The atmosphere of this painting style is further reinforced by lines of poetry, providing the accompaniment to these pictures. Word and image interact and collaborate, true to the phrase once coined by Horace – Ut pictura poesis – as is painting, so is poetry. This infers that verse is a spoken picture, while a painting is silent poetry. Both of these, poetry and painting, obey the same structural conventions and touch the soul.
Bernd Luz is a creative spirit, versatile and constantly busied, but regardless of whether he is creating a poetically atmospheric colour space or dense collage motif, he remains true to himself and his innermost desire. He strives to communicate, because communication binds people together – and is not art the most beautiful form of communication?