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Thomas Rehbein Galerie opens exhibition of works by Ulrich Pester
Ulrich Pester, not yet titled (UP122), 2017. Acrylic, oil, canvas on wood, 60 x 42 cm.

COLOGNE.- Ulrich Pester does not cater to any particular style of painting, rather is his work committed to a profound search of forms of expression, thoroughly questioning the possibilities of painting. With a rather universal approach, the artist allows no distinction between High or Low, analogue or digital, Old Masters or Pop, but rather absorbs iconographic substance in all its diversity, ever intent on exploring new contexts. In this process, day-to day observations, simple objects in his immediate surroundings or even emotional states constitute his rich repertory of pictorial means and subjects, which is further influenced by elements from comic/illustration, typography and fashion. His work as a whole dedicates itself to the investigation of pictorial language.

Pester´s most recent paintings openly refer to digital aesthetics or computer generated visuals. Items from his domestic range, such as a glass filled with milk or bottles of beer become protagonists of occasionally funny scenes. The first impression of a comic, even Slapstick-like bearing is however overcome by the serious concentration on questions related to composition and stylistic options. At times statuesque, standing upright like a trophy, at times inclined, the white, reduced shape of a glass of milk can barely be located in the pictorial space on account of its interaction with purely abstract shapes, thus breaching any illusionistic perspective. In a group of paintings, whose single common feature is an angular letter „G“ outlining the canvas, differently positioned glasses of milk appear. One of them is completely overturned, its content spilled, gathering in the lower curve of the letter. In correspondence to the unstable state, the paintings are placed alternately in keeping either with the vertical format or the horizontal format, sometimes they are even hung lopsided. Another work features a bottle in a precarious backbend, being supported by a more steady comrade. The glass of milk and the beer bottle become formal variables helping to examine the relationship between foreground and background, between horizontal and vertical lines of composition, and to exploit the spatial configuration of the painting and test different variations of colour.

Such experiments dealing with concerns of space and the three dimensions on a flat pictorial plane also refer to Jump-and-Run computer games. The free reference to different media, stylistic modes and their specific features or formal manifestations eliminates all reliable assignments of meaning and content. Pester recombines elements in such a manner that they become detached from any former context, mixing painterly forms and visual languages such as trompe l´oeil effects, expressive gestures, photorealism or comic. “The paintings serve as experiments to analyze simple phenomena and observations and to find an explanation. I break up things and put them back together again. In doing so, I search for forms that, although being deposed from their original meaning and from their essential quality, undergo change to such an extent that a new meaning or even a new shape arises, something different, something strange. I would like to endow things with a new, a second or third level, a level which shows me what things are really not, but what they (for me) must be.” (Pester) Pester´s works emerge as fragile and flexible experimental arrangements, resulting from a fearless appropriation of different styles as well as sampling of various sources. With a sense of postmodern freedom ias propagated in the slogan “Anything goes”, Pester dissolves the conventional entity of form and meaning, instead liberating fleeting, superficial fragments, traces and textures, remains of a former attribution of meaning and style coherence. “I enjoy it, when seemingly familiar images slip and lose ground.” (Pester)

The exhibition title Heute afk or Today afk (abbr. for away from keyboard) emphasizes the permeability of the painting genre, the incessant infiltration of the media and consequent shift between user surfaces, between real and virtual worlds, or analogue and digital forms. In computer or chat language, away from keyboard refers to the temporary absence of a member from a group of participants engaged in a game or conversation. Ulrich Pester concomitantly points to his own ambivalent position, situated between graphic design and painting. Informed and influenced by an amalgamation of image material from several indistinct sources, Pester reflects on the fragility of meaning and form assuming a self-ironical and humorous stance. His work avoids any closed, homogenous style, instead welcoming disruptions and disturbances, always intensively questioning (and dismantling) the means and prerequisites of painting.

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