Ways of Seeing Abstraction:
Phillip Zaiser, Testbild, 2000

Most people still understand abstraction as a concentration on form. It is viewed as an art movement which is used to express aesthetic ideas, orders, philosophical ideas or inner feelings, but which does not have much to do with everyday reality. However, especially in times marked by crises, relevance and urgency are also expected from art, and it is expected to make a statement on current social issues. Today, artistic commitment is not conveyed exclusively through clear visual messages and content, but increasingly through abstraction. For younger generations, in particular, non-representational art is the means of choice for addressing politics, religion, and social issues. Showcasing works from the Deutsche Bank Collection, the exhibition “Ways of Seeing Abstraction” at the PalaisPopulaire undertakes a thoroughly subjective survey of international abstraction from postwar modernism to the recent present, documenting the diversity and discursivity that lie behind the idea of non-objective, “pure” form. On the occasion of the exhibition, our series will show you works by artists who use abstraction idiosyncratically and define it in new ways.


Phillip Zaiser, Testbild, 2000
Š Galerie Perpétuel, Frankfurt am Main


After television stations signed off for the day, test images used to flicker across millions of TV screens. With the help of these graphic compositions of colored and black-and-white bars it was possible to improve TV reception via antenna. These patterns were probably the most present abstract images worldwide, but the triumphal march of cable television and 24-hour programming made them obsolete. In 1997 a broadcaster switched off the country's final test pattern in Germany.

Phillip Zaiser's watercolor, painted three years later, is a reminder of how quickly technical developments can make something disappear that was once ubiquitous. Zaiser, who studied with Georg Herold and Thomas Bayrle, develops his installations of paintings, pieces, and found objects into scene-like spaces in which he addresses fairy tales, pop culture, and his own lives, as well as formal and sculptural questions. He constructs gigantic cuddly animals out of wood waste and investigates male-dominated "worlds" such as Western films, motocross circuits, and bourgeois studies. The test pattern during the station break is an homage to old West Germany and at the same time an intermission in Zaiser's art production, devoid of content or object, bereft of entertainment, geometrically abstract yet entirely commonplace.