“If one looks around, one will always come across people who have spent their life eating eggs without noticing that the elongated ones taste best; or that a thunder-storm stimulates the abdomen; that good smells smell stronger in cold, clear air; that our sense of taste differs depending on the area of our mouth; or that if we have enjoyed talking and listening at a meal the food will not be so well digested. These examples highlight a lack of general observation which may be unsatisfactory, although we all know that intimate things are often overlooked and seldom considered.”
When we come across such passages and linger over them in acquiescence only to absorb them as our own, we do so because from the very first moment, we have the feeling that they were written especially for us to read. We often believe ourselves able to recognize the author behind thoughts as a friend, an ally or a companion. Yes, some readers are continually on the lookout for such passages, being inclined to be inspired by experiences that seem familiar or insights that they assume that they have (or at least could have) had.
For similar reasons some of us are attracted to, surround ourselves with, and look at pictures, and as with good literary passages, we end up carrying them around with us for a long time – sometimes even a lifetime. Possibly, we continually seek the companionship of pictures because, from our own experience, we are aware that pictures hold the key to another, more intense world. The more pictures we visual people encounter, the more we want to see. Just as others are always on the lookout for good literary passages, we continually scan the daily flood of images, looking for those rare pictures that will widen our horizon. We want pictures that we feel have been made for us, pictures that seem better suited to us than to any other of our contemporaries, that are predestined for us, that we instinctively understand, comprehend – pictures capable of transforming us. We are searching for works that no-one could have imagined, for pictures that have as yet no form but in whose existence we believe and are somewhere, out there, waiting for us.
When we come across such pictures they must first be brought to life through the act of looking. That they are there is not enough. Everything hangs on the quality of the awakening. It is only through the efforts of a creative beholder that a picture can become a passage into another world and experiences can be swapped between the known and the unknown.
The magic in Gabriele Langedorf’s pictures lies in her ability to make us acquainted with simple things. Through her commitment to them, the objects, which have been intensely observed, become complex and are transformed into fascinatingly strange things. Something other than their superficial being comes to the fore. It is the obsessive gaze of the artist that transforms the objects. Yet it is not only the object that undergoes this change, but likewise the viewer.
It all seems to happen incidentally. If, like Gabriele Langendorf, one has been painting for decades, one paints without intention and perhaps even without thinking. Painting has then become like living. That painting as well as living can exist in this way and still have meaning, may at first seem surprising; that they can, in one form or another, bridge distances and develop affinities. It is our actions that decide whether we are able to connect, but if we manage, then it is our gain. It is not uncommon that a friendship is felt to be especially intense when built on an exchange of shared misadventures or disappointments. It is difficult to tell whether this results from the troubled outlook of one’s contemporaries or that many of us cannot or will not recognize those things which are closest to them.
Gabriele Langendorf’s small paintings impress upon us how beautiful, impressive and worth studying banal objects can be. In choosing simple, everyday things, she gives them a chance to be viewed with a demanding attentiveness. She is not interested in mirroring the world. Using painting to estrange, she shows us the beauty of chocolate in a shiny, silver wrapper. She manages to carry over the soothing accuracy of an everyday shopping receipt or in painting torn- open envelopes, she conveys the feeling of impatience to know the contents within. The objects do not, however, have to tell a story. They are often enough on their own. A piece of soap, some eggs, a dead mouse, a medicine packet containing three orange-coloured pills, the rubber ring of a preserving glass hanging on a nail, a folded white cloth, a padded envelope with kitchen knife or a washing-up sponge with a wedding ring, are all found worthy enough to be studied intensely by Langendorf.
Nietzsche believed indisputably that should one take ordinary objects for granted there would be consequences to pay. He was of the view „that from this defect are derived nearly all the bodily and spiritual infirmities of the individual. Ignorance of what is good and bad for us, in the arrangement of our mode of life, the division of our day, the selection of our friends and the time we devote to them, in business and leisure, commanding and obeying, our feeling for nature and for art, our eating, sleeping, and meditation; ignorance and lack of keen perceptions in the smallest and most ordinary details this it is that makes the world "a vale of tears" for so many. Let us not say that here as everywhere the fault lies with human unreason. Of reason there is enough and to spare, but it is wrongly directed and artificially diverted from these little intimate things.“ 1
In her paintings, Gabriele Langendorf not only devotes herself to ordinary objects, but also manages to convey a certain laid-back attitude to her professorship and to the demands on a painter. The very fact that this series of new paintings does not test the outer limits of her painterly virtuosity, leaves the viewer with a benevolent, relaxed impression. They radiate - as with all good things-a certain laissez-faire.
Translation: Charlotte Hartmann
1 Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All too Human, Part II, The Wanderer and his Shadow, (6) Earthly Infirmities and their Main Cause. Trans. Paul V. Cohen London, 1934