PARIS.- Stefan Kürten (born in 1963) deals precisely with this longing for a private refuge1 . Almost always, his works feature isolated buildings surrounded by strictly designed gardens or a wild, natural setting, guiding our gaze towards the only piece of architecture. By constantly avoiding the representation of people living in or near the house, he gives his subjects a feeling of neutrality, a subtle way of attracting our attention into his pictorial spaces, as it were. He does not try to tell a story that leaves viewers free to create their own stories by proceeding through associations of ideas. Thus, the intention is not to depict reality, but to evoke an idea of reality that offers each viewer the opportunity to imagine him- or herself in the picture, to get lost inside of it2.
Whether starting with his own photos or in his immediate environment, in books and magazines, Kürtens paintings are artificially constructed, carefully composed, even if the places evoke a feeling of déjà vu, these architectures and places do not exist as such in reality.
Kürten depict environments which are not evoking those that one aspires or tries to create - a perfect place to live - a house as a symbol of our dreams and hopes, to modernist architecture close to the Bauhaus style or Prairie houses by Frank Lloyd Wright, whose German and American culture Kürten is familiar with.
However to look better, a break point made itself felt. The indeterminacy of the sources of light casting improbable shadows or unrelated reflections provokes strangeness in these idyllic scenes. The parts are becoming dark and enlightened and vice versa; Paintings look like a negative-photo in colour damaged by time (even here the colours are not affected).
Technically, Stefan Kürten always begins his paintings - on canvas or on paper - with a layer of gold-coloured paint and proceeds by successive overlays: On this preliminary layer, he draws his subject in a very detailed way with sepia ink and then returns to acrylic by fine and successive touches. Thus, it springs from his compositions on a gold background, giving the colours that cover them a discoloured aspect, an indefinable and eerie light.
Kürten clearly refers in his work to the concept that is both artistic and, above all, literary, which developed by Freud3 of the Unheimlich, and we can translate in English by the uncanny4 (Which suddenly disturbs the most ordinary and innocent situations). Here, the house as the bearer of the Unheimlich, but whose the connection appears to be strictly speaking in our imagination by mentally linking its pictorial spaces with the possible events they induce5.
Life is not simple in the Kürtens world. The varnish can be very fragile, like the world of Lewis Carroll6, appearances can be misleading behind the mirror7
Thus, an immense cosmic house is in power in any house dream. From its center radiate the winds, and seagulls come out of its windows. A house so dynamic allows the poet to inhabit the universe. Or, another way to saying, the universe comes to live in his house. ---Extract from The poetic of the space by Gaston Bachelard published by Les Presses universitaires de France, 1957.
Stefan Kürten (German, b. 1963) lives and works in Düsseldorf. He studied painting at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf (with prof. Michael Buthe) and later attended the Art Institute San Francisco (1990). Since 2014, he is professor at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf after teaching by turns at the Art Institute San Francisco, at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar and at The School of Art and Design - Alfred University New York.
His work has been shown extensively for over 30 years in galleries and institutions, and collected by such public art collections as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, The Saatchi Gallery, London, The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
1 Simone Scholten, Text published in Running To Stand Still by Stefan Kürten, Catalog accompanying the exhibition Stefan Kürten : Heimlich, Galerie der Stadt Backnang, Nov.2014 Feb.2015, published by Galerie der Stadt Backnang.
2 Simone Scholten, Ibid.
3 Sigmund Freud Essais de psychanalyse appliquée, Collection les Essais n°61, published by Gallimard, 1933.
4 Sandrine Bazile, Gérard Peylet, Imaginaire et écriture dans le roman haussérien, published by Presses universitaires de Bordeaux, 2006.
5 Simone Scholten, Ibid.
6 Lewis Carroll Alices Adventures in Wonderland, published by Macmillan and Co, 1865
7 Simone Scholten, Ibid.