jochen stenschke

In a Flash – An Inversion of Nothingness

KV Münsterland, Katalog "In einem Nu", Kerber Verlag 2008

The coverage, description and interpretation of reality is largely linked to linguistic competence. Data streams via the global digital networks enable verbal communication and a direct exchange of information within seconds and with no time limit. The electronic image technology of the photographic media creates reproducible and manipulable pictures of the world. In addition, the image-diagnostic technologies of science and research allow ever deeper insights into life’s interconnections. The plausibility, truth and logic of what is under scrutiny is derived from the degree to which it can be objectified. There where language and the factual meet the boundaries of formulation, an autonomous, undetermined and ambiguous reality begins to address, above all, our cognitive and emotional stratum. This imaginary world of subconscious knowledge, of the link to various cultures, of subjective memories and experiences, is randomly evoked from an actual situation. The ‘data carrier’ here between the perceived and the associated is the sensibility of the senses.

Determined Indeterminacy

Jochen Stenschke’s paintings, drawings and objects derive their determinacy from the situations’ potentialities that lie beyond the expressive possibilities of language; thus they point past the payload capacity of words, since the “lack of determinacy turns into an excess of meaning.” 1 They draw their defining force from life’s natural rhythm and the inner mentality of the artist. Jochen Stenschke’s works, spontaneously and immanently, take on life during the process of the painting act and evolve from inside out. “Inversion is the actual centre of the painting and of the theory behind it. Indeterminacy is indispensable for this, for it is what first creates the latitude and the potentialities that enable the factual to show itself and show anything at all.”2 All this means that the different work complexes are Jochen Stenschke’s supporting media and are substitutes for the cultural, philosophical and existential contexts that involve man. They are also meant as a mental reflection of the artist and an iconographic fixation of life’s dynamism.

Consistent Force Fields

His current works present themselves as paintings of a high quality and intensity. One reason for this is a rejection of his former conceptual use of PVC as a material. Painting itself is being foregrounded and stands in direct correspondence with the viewer.
The absence of this material induces a ‘liberation’ of three-dimensional depth. Nothing stands in the way of our gaze onto the picture and onto the paint process visible on the picture plane. The expansion of the pictorial space and its stages of gradation into different layers is made visible. In “Spin 1”, 2007 (see fig. p. 29), the viewer’s gaze penetrates layer after layer down to the base, which is the wooden support. The organic structure of the wood and its haptic authority is a consistent force field for painting and not simply a picture support. Paint applied in glazes appropriates the grain of the wood as a design element. The drawn-in lines undulate as a result of the animated surface. The natural materiality becomes a picture-immanent design element and affects the moving rhythm of an artistic vocabulary that bears within it the imaginary and, simultaneously, the real.
During the painting process, large flowing forms at first emerge, as in “Wasserzeichen 4”, 2008 (see fig. p. 87), which define their expansive possibilities on the picture plane, so to speak, interlock with each other at the different levels, and whose seemingly fleeting and airy nature requires a great deal of practice.
Jochen Stenschke’s preferred horizontal formats reinforce the flowing character of the figurations that mostly move across the picture from left to right. Circles, infinite loops or bands of color are meant to iconically depict endless motion within the finiteness of the static painting. The evolution of powerful, large or picture-filling forms is followed by differentiated internal shapes that, painted or drawn in layers, are woven into fine micro structures. As a consequence, the composition does not come about before, but during, the creative process, one that is tied in with the action-aesthetic of the artist and not obligated to an object-aesthetic. As a result of an emancipation from real contexts during the picture’s production process, the pictorial vocabulary can develop its own autonomous way of transporting meaning and insight.
In the new works, Jochen Stenshke has turned increasingly to color, whose inner structure, pulsating density and presence on the picture plane is directly comprehensible. This is above all a liberty the paint possesses in his waste-oil or paper works (see fig. “Gregorteilchen 1 (Moment des Übergangs” 2002, p.67 and fig. “Gesten 3”, 2002, p.72). Color in his oeuvre takes on greater immanence, evolves into a counterworld of line or is in constant exchange with it.
In the work “Wasserzeichen 2”, 2007 (see fig. p.82) the line – from the depth of the picture ground – brings to the surface different color tones and traces of the grain of the wooden support. Similar to a communication medium, the elements that are sketched in set the different strata into relation to each other and link them across the entire length of the horizontal format. In addition, the line is subject to constant and rapid transformation within the picture. Whereas in contrast, the habitus of the color is slow, long-lasting and soft. As mood-bearers, the color tonalities and color contrasts – comparable to a musical composition – establish the emotional resonance in the picture. In an interchange with given and deliberately set structures, shapes and lines, they additionally form a moving, flowing rhythm that also constitutes the temporal dimension in the works.

It is especially the waste-oil works that document the momentum and the temporal aspect of the flow. In fine gradations of gray, the paint in capillary threads seeps into the paper and encloses a form like an ‘aura’ (see fig. p.76). The extension in space and time is subject to the will of the artist, who steers the process with wax crayons.
Jochen Stenschke also carries the flux of the picture’s movement into three-dimensionality as a moment of kinetic energy, by using models from PVC and parts of plastic forms. Something comparable can be found in works by Georges Vantongerloo: “Deux zones de l’espace” from 1949 and “Des formes et des couleurs dans l’espace” from 1950.

Situational Contexts

The profusion of perceptional possibilities requires restriction, so that the essential can become recognizable. Jochem Stenschke’s work draws its identity out of a fund of memory. What is thought, seen or associated is fixed in a sketch or a model. Intuitive accumulation is subject to a selection that is at first guided by unconscious, visual links between the seen and the remembered. Seemingly fragmentary details from the everyday world, from the real, natural and cultural environs, fuse to a spiritual canon and in the context of the situation become an artistic impulse. Jochen Stenschke’s occupation with Far Eastern cultures and world views explains his ability to transform the imaginary power of an instant into painterly energy and to see in the present what was essential in the past. Francois Jullien, in his book Über die Wirksamkeit, juxtaposes the strategic way of thinking of the Western world with the way the Far Eastern mentality achieved its goals. “The potential is therefore not about forces that collide and of which we all have our own, but about the potential in the situation. By means of this situational potential, you produce successful results over the course of time, without strain and without a constant need for uplift. It contains the possibility that it can open out, just as an incline allows water to flow. And you interpret it just as water does, by understanding how to go with the flow.”
The determination of the, at first, undetermined situational potentials in connection with insights into human existence, cultural traditions and the way we’ve been shaped by the history of ideas is the basis for developing an individual visual vocabulary. Motifs, linear structures and specific forms establish the relationship between the signifier and the signified. But these, however, have one ‘natural’ common ground or similarity to what is represented, which allows for an almost universal recognition factor. In an interchange of similar words and sentences, these icons make up the syntax of the images that run through all the work complexes. On an associative level they open an access to memories and are a substitute for latent contexts of meaning. The decipherability of collective pictures as a holistically comprehensive, generally understandable language is founded, among other things, on a formal canon that man carries within him, independently of his cultural origin, his different life perspectives or intellectual formation, and does so across the generations.
The awareness and the trust in these primal qualities are the origin of Jochen Stenschke’s pictures. On an impulse they reveal themselves as an inversion of nothingness into an idea of the natural. Rudolf Arnheim describes aspects of human cognition as an indivisible unity of visual perception and thought. Not till “visual thinking” is implemented do phenomenological links come about: “The art of drawing essentials from a given kind of entity can apply only to organized wholes, in which some features hold key positions while others are secondary or accidental. Little knowledge would be obtained about such organized wholes if abstraction consisted in the extraction of random traits.”
Jochen Stenschke’s work series adapt themes of human existence, record life and trigger a cornucopia of meaning through a universal visual language that points beyond the capabilities of any spoken or written one. Not till all fixed placements are eliminated does the world appear – “In einem Nu” (in a flash) – in all its factual structures, although, beyond the purely sensual perception, it contains an ample bonus of intended Being.

Jutta Meyer zu Riemsloh, Kunstverein Münsterland, Coesfeld
Translated by Jeanne Haunschild