this issue contains
>> Drifter: An Interview with Peter Doig
>> Magical Mystery Tour
>> Interview Ilya and Emilia Kabakov
>> Time Travels: Abetz & Drescher

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Painted Time Travels

The "time tunnel" as a parallel universe: the visual worlds of Maike Abetz and Oliver Drescher leave a lot of room for utopian vision. Baroque angels meet antique gods and ancient Greek arcades dissolve into psychedelic Op Art spirals, while the spirit of pop music hovers above it all - a rendezvous between Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger, The Who, and David Bowie. All of which gives rise to a type of painting that uses any available form and medium to keep the magic of memory alive. But where does this new longing for the past come from? Harald Fricke visited the artist couple in their studio.

Maike Abetz und Oliver Drescher © Abetz/Drescher

Pictures of pictures, pictures in pictures, pictures on pictures: art history is full of references, traces, and labyrinths in which the viewer can easily get lost in an endless abundance of visual material. An ironic treatment of the hunger for images already appeared in the caricatures of William Hogarth , who used his own production to expose his contemporaries' insatiable curiosity. Yet the celebration of the image flood as aesthetic enlightenment was taken completely seriously - ultimately, the so-called Petersburg hanging was a treasure chamber, image atlas, and fun house of the real world, and all at the same time. In the final analysis, even postmodernism's playful love of the quote is not a swan song, but an homage to art history's vast inventory.

To Maike Abetz and Oliver Drescher, the eighties' drive to plunder the archive and drool over the treasures of the past like a vampire is not an entirely alien one. While there was some talk about the end or even the death of painting in the aftermath of Neo-Expressionism's and Neo-Pop Art's excessive exploitations, a new rush for painted images has since broken loose.

Abetz/Drescher: The Optic Nerve, 2000
Courtesy Galerie Volker Diehl,© Abetz/Drescher

Every stylistic direction or art historical reference is welcome, and new generations of painters are digging ever deeper into the goldmines of history. The youngest have already announced a revival of Art Informel and Constructivism. For Oliver Drescher, art is back where it started again: "you suddenly realize that nearly nothing has been painted yet. While Modernists were busy discussing what each radical new beginning should look like, the forms used to communicate this new beginning were painted, again and again." Abetz avers that the respective level of technique only exerted a limited effect on the perception of progress: "If you look at Malevich, he turned from the Black Square, which is one of our favorite paintings, back to figurative painting. This decision makes it clear that it's not possible to separate between categories like 'abstract' or 'realistic.'"

Abetz/Drescher: Daten und Strukturen, 2003
Courtesy Galerie Volker Diehl, © Abetz/Drescher

In the case of Abetz and Drescher, however, this encounter with the past looks completely different from what you'd expect in times of retro and revival. In a painting like Data and Structures (2003), Baroque angels meet antique gods; in Red with Purple Flashes (2001), ancient Greek arcades dissolve into psychedelic Op Art spirals while the spirit of pop music hovers above it all - a rendezvous between Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger, The Who, and David Bowie. While Neo Rauch's shrewd Socialist figures populate fifties scenery, or while Tim Eitel places his monk-like museum visitors before the fruits of Classic Modernism, the artist couple, who live in Berlin, carry their ties further back into vanished cultures. For Drescher, this entails a "touch of longing" that doesn't merely recapture the earlier spirit as "life lived better," but rather the magic of the moment that seeks to transport the immediate experience of what was "happening" back into the present. To learn from Pop means to learn how to fly.

Admittedly, you can get pretty dizzy looking at this kaleidoscope-like journey through time. And it's with a certain amount of derision that Abetz and Drescher talk about how some visitors first have to recuperate from all the glaring variety in their studio. They're both aware, of course, that they're expecting the viewer to subject himself to an endless number of cross-references, associations, allegories , and puzzles, also in reference to their own visual philosophy. When asked whether their pastiche is a reaction to the common practices of sampling and digital manipulation, Drescher answers: "I'd go even further and see it as part of a much larger context: everything is about storage, whether it's writing, painting, or music. There wouldn't be any memory without forms of notation and symbols. And that's magic, too, when you make signs. That's how it's always been, and it happens again and again. The ibis-headed Egyptian moon god who writes in the realm of the dead was the inventor of the written form and at the same time the god of magic and science."

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