Peter Vahlefeld
Analog and Digital Painting

Peter Vahlefeld’s paintings grapple with reflections over marketing strategies in art. He has recognized that works of art in our culture inevitably are reduced to the condition of commodity. What he does is to short-circuit the process and start with the commodity.

Peter Vahlefeld overpaints readymade images like advertisements of international galleries, museums, and auction houses. The overpainted printed matter will then be digitalized and reworked on the computer, before being blown up, rendering the three-dimensional overpainting as a two-dimensional background for the new painting on canvas. The result is a multilayered composition in which figure and ground seem to continually shift between the analog painting with acrylics and oil, and its digital counterpart. This method is predicated upon the crossover of painting, printing and collage, and draws it actuality from the collision between the visual codes of mass media and the subjective traces of painterly expression. Unlike on the computer, where the functional logic is based on described rules, the material on canvas becomes the topic as a sequence of actions and various creative and destructive processes–smudges of oil paint atop fragments of digital printouts, areas which have been sanded right down, and colors which are shining through from the other side of the print.

To put painting as a contemporary pictorial medium to the test, the artwork is inspired by the mechanical use of silkscreen by artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol.

It replaces silkscreen printing with the relatively new process of inkjet printing with the Epson UltraChrome K3 ink technology by means of Mac OS X, making Photoshop part of the painting process.

The various sources, which are subsequently assembled and juxtaposed on canvas, are also quintessentially a true reflection of the times.

And where Twombly once scrawled the names of Roman gods across his canvases, Vahlefeld can only put paint against a ground of the new gods: Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Art Basel, MoMA, Tate, etc.

In this work, Peter Vahlefeld is concerned neither with depiction in the sense of representation, nor with an iconographic codification, but rather with the painting process.

An abstract mark cannot help but carry with it an entire history of modern painting, loaded with historical reference.

The relationship between brushed gestures, rollered marks, traced imprints, painting, printing, masking, and staining create a porous surface that breathes in different registers.

The whole social fabric of our society is used as a point of departure and becomes reanimated and supercharged.

Transforming hotel stationery into the domain of painting, the artwork does not concern itself with content. Canvas, fabrics and pigment prints were covered with various applications of paint and a devotion to painterly processes and excesses, creating an impression of depth through overlapping layers.

While letters and numbers, as means of language-based expression, may have initiated the procedure of processing, they loose the initial meaning, and the significance now restricts itself to that of signs within a set space.

Poised between abstraction and figuration, the painting is meticulously constructed using oil paint, mediums, archival pigment prints and fabrics on canvas.

Slowly built up layer-by-layer, its sensuous surface is stirred up and set into motion by sweeping brushstrokes or interspersed with swirls and outbursts of color.

The painting began as an overpainting of an original museum poster which was then scanned, digitally reworked, printed out and further altered with layers of paint and collage on canvas.

The smudged passages of oil paint atop fragments of prints defacing parts of the canvas become something like the ground of the composition.

It is the idea of bringing painting and printing together, which are and aren’t continuous with one another — painting out certain areas, and then reprinting them, the process becomes both additive and reductive.

The canvas is collaged with digital printouts of an overpainted museum catalogue page that form the foundation of the painting and fuses with the painted surface, composed of seemingly informal gestures.

The overpainting on canvas playfully demonstrates the way icons produce multiple significations, superimposing layers of meaning, reflecting on the relationship between the visual and the verbal in the field of art history.

Nothing coheres in a way that could be said to have substantive narrative dimension or pictorial legibility, except for visible stops and starts that prod the limits of content.

The artwork deals with the circulation and recycling of images. Representational associations fade away as thick layers of pigmented inkjet prints, paint, and fabric come together in an effortless balance of color and texture.

There is no hierarchy of representation, no differentiation among appropriated images, abstract gestures and graphic patterns.

Taking inspiration from an auction catalogue ad, Vahlefeld creates a new take on modern masterpieces, questioning the correlation between art and advertising, marketing and branding.

Prints on canvas are the starting point for this composition, introducing a set of graphically defined shapes, areas and colors that can be interrupted or continued, embraced or obliterated.

They work like little irritants, offset by the vigorous and multiform application of paint with pigments.

The artwork retains a strong sense of the hand’s movement when producing a mark and of the concentration paid to the weight and attitude of each application.

Vahlefeld elicits a disorienting effect by flipping the canvases multiple times during their production, so that drips and slabs of color slide sideways or flow upward, decentering the composition.

Fracture marks this artworks, teeming with thick brushstrokes, bringing depth into the painting.

The motif in this mixed media work looks like it is about to disappear due to the layering of abstract gestures and fields of color.

Across its surface, incorporating different types of mark-making, there are gradations between loud, dense, quiet, and subtle parts.

The painting is a cautious construction, balancing contradicting forces and moods within the composition, giving it urgency and coherence.

The artwork is about the ambivalence between the object (an overpainted gallery advertisement) and abstraction.

With brushes, scrapers, grinders, and squeegees the painting is processed, building up to five different layers of acylics, medium, archival pigment prints and oil paint.

There’s almost a performative aspect to the printmaking. This awareness that a digital printout doesn’t have to be the result of an exact technical process but also a gestural means of expression, superimposed with layers of paint on top, is a pivotal moment between the expressive use of paint application, and the delicious sense of material facture.

Working with a process of layering and removing marks, alienated by overlapping layers of fabrics and interrupted by overpainted pigment prints, the painting deals with the manipulation, re-utilisation and disappearance of images combined with gestural abstraction.

Incorporating both additive and subtractive techniques, different mediums and varnishes, the multi-layered tension between color and form provide the energy in this piece. The artwork references its own process, and a playful celebration of painting itself.

Beginning each painting, Peter Vahlefeld seeks to create a subtle but visually engaging base, which serves as a foil to the next layers of prints and paint.

In their accumulation and splitting of layers and nexus of forms, the work not only documents the painting process, but also functions as a record of an expressive movement in time.

Using metallic pigments like gold, silver and copper, and incorporating both additive and subtractive techniques, the materiality of paint ranges from matte and velvety to transparent and translucent, resulting in a visceral, and sometimes thickly impastoed surface.

The very idea of erasing presents a daunting challenge as it comes enmeshed in connotations of destruction.

The act of removing or obliterating painted elements is an integral part of constructing this painting.

The artwork is created only as it is destroyed, and the more advanced its ruin becomes, the more its reality and autonomy as a painting is asserted.

Using a refined process of building and removing layer upon layer of oil paint and prints on canvas with electric tools like sanding machines, the work embraces chance as a central idea, revealing buried layers of references.

This work of art deals with pictures that already exist and liberates them from their originally intended narration and function.

Just as the pictorial material is so different, so differentiated are the methods of overpainting, which lead to the rephrasing of the depicted information.

Images taken from art advertising have considerable semantic capacity; each is a quotation as potent as a short text and illustrates a sophisticated semantic game.

In order to achieve a subtle combination of form and content, an overpainting of printed matter that is first executed in oil on the printed page, is scanned, processed on the computer, printed on different kinds of materials, and then reprocessed and recombined on canvas.

The overpainting, though obscured, is fundamental to the picture.

It is literally the starting point, and provides the structure, intersecting lines, and the relationship between forms, fabrics, prints and paint.

The final artwork blends all these unrelated elements that find unity in their arrangement of the painting.

Peter Vahlefeld’s portraiture actively engages with the history of art and addresses issues ranging from representation and appropriation to heritage, style, and tradition.

His technique combines painting with sculpture, boldly mixing diverse and unconventional materials to realize a richly textured manner of figuration.

The artworks takes inspiration from the canonical paintings of modern art. Vahlefeld acts like a narrator, who comments on the history of painting, hijacked for marketing campaigns by museums. He transposes fragments from these icons, layering, opposing, and intersecting histories with his own interventions.