What I'm interested in is a state of permanent instability. It has always bothered me to want to fix things, to reduce them to something simple, to look in everything for a functionality, a usefulness, a catchphrase or a necessity. This explains my predilection for overlays, multiplicity, the interweaving of perspectives, time, mind and body, but also fragmented subjects, barely sketched, floating between appearance and disappearance. This also partly explains my preference for the raw, the vintage, the new, even if it’s hard work .
When I start a painting, I have leads, which I pursue, but which I could eventually give up if other strong ideas arise during the process.
I try to listen to my head, but also to my body, which has its secrets, its own will in more or less spontaneous movement. I try to be attentive to each occurrence and contingency, to discard my original intentions if necessary, to be furious and gentle, generous and minimalist, and to abandon, to go beyond the age-old knowledge of painting, its history, the acquired techniques, the "know-how." (In general, I am wary of mastery in any form, and even more so of concepts. I prefer to feel like a beginner with each new painting. But that doesn't mean you can avoid a minimum of craftsmanship, a necessary attribute for any artistic and manual activity).
I have often taken part in blind painting, too, just for the fun of it, to quickly satisfy the need to do something, driven by the deep certainty that something is going to happen anyway. It's simply to get right into the game, the fight, the adventure ("Let's get started, doggone it!"). A productive encounter will take place, spurred on by the provocations of chance, drawing me towards something essential, that I am sure.
The way I look at my painting is more like a confidential guide. It is not a tyrant who forces me to do this or that. It plays the role of a faithful, calm, experienced, attentive, lively and responsive navigator, able to see through mist and mud and to project imaginary routes through the darkness, pointing the way in these journeys into the unknown. But I don't always obey it, because even irregularities are welcome. And sometimes this navigator looks away or even closes its eyes in order to avoid permanent control and deliberately "makes a mistake" in order to satisfy its insatiable taste for surprises. Together we do our utmost to avoid boredom and take on unknown challenges. So, for example, the hand takes a tube of blue instead of green, or it chooses a tube at random, because at that very moment you need paint, "quickly, any color will do," because it is the act that counts. You have to act urgently; then we'll see. The rightness is in the immediate expression.
As a result, I am looking for a painting that allows you to walk, play, juggle, "do somersaults in your head," to quote the painter G. Baselitz, about his painting upside down. To achieve this, I am on the lookout for something very accurate, with the strength to capture the viewer's gaze and provoke an initial reaction, of astonishment, approval, amazement, or even rejection. The second reaction must be one of destabilization, irritation, questioning, generating the desire to look deeper, or at least to stay with the painting longer. It is the rightness of the arrangement of a thousand and one things that incites a more detailed understanding, a deeper observation, giving rise to the pleasure of letting yourself fall into it to discover more, or simply to let yourself float in gentle incomprehension.
Providing an opportunity to travel, interpret, taste, live individual stories and adventures – that's what I'm looking for. I paint in such a way that there are fragments that can be completed, links that can be created in multiple directions, constellations to deconstruct and reconstruct, so as to "swallow" pure painting, to make rhythms, to dance with the eyes, anything we want; it's free and potentially liberating.
And finally, on an even more fundamental level, the question of "why" is always present. It is the idea of self-creation that underlies everything. The subject is the painter. For in principle and in truth, I create myself with each new canvas. There is a reason why people say: "This is a Picasso, this is a Miró, a Dubuffet, etc."
I must admit that it is attractive and stimulating to think that there are, and will be, people who say, "It is an Altrieth." Yes, I have my will, my desire and even my ambition. And the leitmotif is quite simply: "Where can I go with myself? What am I capable of?"
Ralf Altrieth, 2020 January 11th