1985-92
A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN

 

1990
STUDY FOR A WALKING FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 2,08 x 1,25 m

“To me Art’s subject is the human clay.“
W. H. Auden, Letter to Lord Byron (1936)

The legendary exhibition The Humann Clay (1976) curated by R. B. Kitaj, an American artist with Jewish roots, named after the long poem Letter to Lord Byron, was the initial spark for what later became called the School of London. A free movement based on self-reflexive art and the study of human nature with a penchant for the universal power of poetry and plasticity.

This informal group of artists thought in their works in terms of series, sequences or variations, and it is no longer possible to distinguish who is actually speaking here: the painting’s author or the painted figure. The central protagonists of the renewal are Richard Hamilton, who laid the foundation for the international pop movement, David Hockney, who later created works in almost all media, the Berlin-born British portrait painter Lucian Freud, who was praised for his anatomical and psychological observations, and the outsider Francis Bacon, originally from Dublin, who was mainly influenced by film, photography, theater, sculpture, and the Old Masters.

The material of Francis Bacon’s figure is the body, which deforms itself through movements coming from within. In the sense of Gilles Deleuze’s Logic of Sensation (1981), this action is integrated into a programme of becoming. With and in these movements, the flesh emerges, which is the common space of human and animal. Painting must therefore make a conscious decision against the purely “figurative“ if it wants to wrest art from representation. This experienced painting, however, is neither to be confused with the inner monologue of abstract expressionism nor with a gestural painterly stream of consciousness. However, the fact that the boundaries are sometimes blurred is made clear by the following definition from literature: the experienced speech believes in the “inner nature“, builds analepses and prolepses into the figure as trains of thought, and is a reproduction of the unformulated stream of consciousness in the third person.

Frank Geßner’s early study works from 1985 – 1992, a selection reproduced here for the first time, are more reminiscent of a “late work“ and were created in the studio Zuckerfabrik Bad Cannstatt and at the State Academy of Fine Arts Stuttgart. Here, the Salzburg-born German-Austrian graphic artist and painter Herwig Schubert taught as a life drawing professor in the so-called Malersaal and conveyed “A New Spirit in Painting“.

The titular series A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1987) and the other mixed media works on wrapping paper by Frank Geßner are comparable to a Bildungsroman or coming-of-age story: In the daily work of his first own studio, the artist related everything to the main character and experimented for the first time with ellipses of image and context. In a personal form, the events are depicted from a subjective perspective, as is typical for a diary or autoethnography, and furthermore, in parts, they are depicted in the form of a stream of consciousness, i.e. the viewer follows the action along with the author’s thoughts in different styles and from different perspectives. Geßner uses this polyfocal technique here for the first time. Thus, in terms of concept and content, the Portrait can be seen as a precursor and a preparation for the main work Wege zum Bild.

Theodor F. Null

 

1987
A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Mixed media on paper, 365 sheets à 0,45 x 0,33 m, selection of 9 sheets

 

1988
STUDY FOR A SELF-PORTRAIT
Mixed media on paper, 0,565 x 0,41 m

 

1988
STUDY FOR A SELF-PORTRAIT
Mixed media on paper, 0,54 x 0,48 m

 

1992
STUDY FOR A SELF-PORTRAIT
Mixed media on paper, 0,54 x 0,48 m

 

1990
STUDY FOR A PORTRAIT OF C. B.
Mixed media on paper, 0,594 x 0,42 m

 

1990
STUDY FOR A PORTRAIT OF C. B.
Mixed media on paper, 0,594 x 0,42 m

 

1992
STUDY FOR A PORTRAIT OF U. K. (BERLIN)
Mixed media on paper, 0,594 x 0,42 m

 

1992
STUDY FOR A PORTRAIT OF M. R. (BERLIN)
Mixed media on paper, 0,594 x 0,42 m

 

1992
STUDY FOR A PORTRAIT OF P. W. (BERLIN)
Mixed media on paper, 0,594 x 0,42 m

 

1992
STUDY FOR A PORTRAIT OF P. W. (BERLIN)
Mixed media on paper, 0,594 x 0,42 m

 

1987
STUDY FOR A PORTRAIT OF G. B.
Charcoal, chalk on paper, 0,594 x 0,42 m

 

1987
STUDY FOR A PORTRAIT OF E. W.
Charcoal, chalk on paper, 0,594 x 0,42 m

 

1986
STUDY FOR A SELF-PORTRAIT
Charcoal, chalk on paper, 0,594 x 0,42 m

 

1990
STUDY FOR A PORTRAIT OF N. A.
Mixed media on paper, 0,594 x 0,42 m

 

1991
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 0,594 x 0,42 m

 

1991
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 0,594 x 0,42 m

 

1990
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Charcoal, chalk on paper, 0,594 x 0,42 m

 

1990
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Charcoal, chalk on paper, 0,594 x 0,42 m

 

1991
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 0,594 x 0,42 m

 

1991
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 0,594 x 0,42 m

 

1991
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 0,594 x 0,42 m

 

1989
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 1,60 x 1,20 m

 

1987
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 1,80 x 0,98 m

 

1988
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 1,60 x 1,20 m

 

1990
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 2,01 x 1,34 m

 

1990
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 2,01 x 1,34 m

 

1989
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 2,01 x 1,34 m

 

1989
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 2,01 x 1,34 m

 

1990
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 2,01 x 1,34 m

 

1989
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 2,01 x 1,34 m

 

1988
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 2,01 x 1,34 m

 

1988
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 2,01 x 1,34 m

 

1988
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 2,08 x 1,25 m

 

1989
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 2,08 x 1,25 m

 

1990
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 2,01 x 1,34 m

 

1990
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 2,01 x 1,34 m

 

1990
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 2,01 x 1,34 m

 

1989
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 2,01 x 1,34 m

 

1988
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 2,01 x 1,34 m

 

1990
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 2,01 x 1,34 m

 

1991
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 2,01 x 1,34 m

 

1991
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 2,08 x 1,25 m

 

1991
STUDY FOR A FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 2,08 x 1,25 m

 

1991
STUDY FOR A FIGURE (RIMBAUD)
Mixed media on paper, 2,08 x 1,25 m

 

1991
STUDY FOR A FIGURE (VERLAINE)
Mixed media on paper, 2,08 x 1,25 m

 

1990
STUDY FOR A WALKING FIGURE
Mixed media on paper, 2,01 x 1,34 m

 

“Et ignotas animum dimittit in artes.“
Ovid, Metamorphoses, VIII, 188