Kloosterboer on Gerd Lieder—Reflections of World
Inspired by the large format paintings by the original Photorealists of the 1960s and 1970s, Gerd Lieder developed his own style and work methods through bold autodidactic discipline. As a result of ever-progressing technology—i.e., the change from the analog to the digital camera as well as access to computer software to see more details and aid in design—Lieder’s signature style has evolved from somewhat looser Photorealism to ultra-sharp, highly meticulous Hyperrealism.
Using traditional oil paint and brush, he confidently captures a variety of subject matter—from still lifes to portraits and nudes, and from architecture to interiors and cityscapes. The common thread across all of his artwork is his passionate pursuit of painting reflections; those we see in water, metal, tile, polished stone, glass, glossy plastic, and metal foil. Playing with light, color and distortions, Lieder catches a fleeting moment in time which offers an accurate representation entwined with intriguingly abstract patterns that invite the eyes to toggle between recognizable visuals and puzzling, almost graphic content.
Lieder’s paintings are often inspired by his travels to large cosmopolitan cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, London, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi, where the opulence of the urban lifestyle catches his eye and imagination. High-end fashion, design, architecture, luxury brands, and stylish shop windows—in other words, the glamourous world of the ultra-rich—are captured in his paintings from a very personal viewpoint. Lieder’s strength lies in the careful portrayal of a suspended moment in time by infusing it with a sense of voyeurism, encouraging us to participate as spectators. It’s an invitation to gaze unashamedly at hidden facets of our egos; our secret hunger for splendor and opulence. He offers us the pleasure of observing a coveted object, fascinating setting, or mysterious person through a distorted lens that amplifies and metamorphoses our visual world.
There’s a moving sense of ambiguity to Lieder’s paintings that is achieved through skillful cropping and a selective focus on details, or by giving a larger context to scenes abundant in understated atmosphere, or by only showing glimpses of anonymous distant figures. His sophisticated paintings of shop windows, for example, are exquisitely intricate; there Lieder truly shows off his mastery at capturing several planes of perception, giving the viewer hints about location and season, while paying close attention to the beauty of inanimate objects and lavish textures. His close-ups of coveted luxury items, such as perfume bottles and designer shoes, are both visually and psychologically pleasing, their extravagance captured by way of graceful contours, vivid color palettes, and the elaborate abstractions within opulent surface materials. Lieder’s alluring interior settings, in which large expanses of polished flooring often enhance the mystique of distant figures, are masterpieces that perfectly capture the diffuse interplay of lights and shadows within hushed stylish environments.
Currently, Lieder is working on an exciting new series of large format paintings focusing on the human figure. As expected, far from being traditional portraits these paintings seamlessly extend Lieder’s repertoire as he continues to infuse his eye-catching compositions with his signature reflections and distortions. Complementing his figures with unexpected materials, such as cellophane or glass blocks, simultaneously enhance and obscure facial features, creating completely new, highly whimsical labyrinths within our sense of reality.
Indeed, Lieder’s paintings represent an important metaphor of Reality: Strikingly capturing three-dimensionality on a two-dimensional plane, he offers the psychovisual interpretation of the fact that when we look at something or someone, we merely perceive a fragment as inevitably a large part of it remains hidden behind a veil of expectations, limited insight, and a multitude of personal biases. There’s an enriching depth and gravitas to Lieder’s oeuvre; not only in the joy of witnessing serious craftmanship, but also in the profound way of presenting his philosophy that—when the viewer opens up to it—affects the way in which we see the world around us, and ultimately perhaps even ourselves.
Written by Lorena Kloosterboer, Antwerp, May 2019
The first „picture“ in the history of mankind was a reflection – in a slop, a calm lake or a waterhole. And the reflection of an early human face bended over the water might well have substantially contributed to the downing of the consciousness of the human being: The self performed movements and grimaces reproduced by the reflected picture – therefore it must be me what is looking at me. The key phrase is not “cogito, ergo sum” but “video, ergo sum” – I see (me), therefore I am.
Gerd Lieder discovers and encodes the world of reflections and thus he reverts to the probably most ”archaic” realization processes. At the same time he is imparting to us a unique, non-repeatable detail of the reality in every single of his – necessarily – perfectly drawn pictures, as there is nothing more transient than a reflection. Only the camera – Lieder’s most important hand tool apart from the red marten paint brushes – is able to keep this impression. Never will anybody of us see the same reality which Gerd Lieder is showing in his pictures – anyhow he is picturing reality. At the same time Lieder’s works are frozen time, images of a split second, which will never return that way. He offers to us a reality – and there is the subtle of his art – a reality which is not provable. Thus these pictorial declarations contain a playful provocation: It looks real – but was it really so? Probably it gives Gerd Lieder sometimes a secret pleasure that only he knows and can know (the truth). A reality which is truly existing but owned only by one single person ?
As if this was not enough, Gerd Lieder is playing with the viewers understanding of reality in a different way too: His pictures are as they were encodings of the reality occasionally putting our perceptibility to the test: What is it what is being reflected there? Lieder fulfils the whole range from “clearly visible” to “no idea” ? So his reflections are often showing real articles but in many cases they are hardly recognizable. And this again is a subtle move: a photorealistic painting where the reality is invisible. And again Gerd Lieder is the only person knowing the truth ? For other pictures the spectator is forced to look very closely, as for instance the many architecture pictures are looking like abstractions – like many of Lieder’s pictures – eventually being able to be decoded through their name, as “Über den Rhein” (Over the Rhine) or “Moschee” (Mosque).
The abrupt switch from objectivity to abstraction and vice versa is another particular nature of Lieder’s works. In an exposition of his works one realizes his strategy (procedure), as several descriptions of reality correlate with each other. But if one took one or another picture out of context and showed it without explanation, a couple of beholders would take them for abstract paintings. Therefore another trick: perfect photorealistic paintings which can be recognized as abstract picture or not. I can not get rid of the hunch: This man plays not only with realities but with the beholders too.
One should not overlook the psychological implications in Lieder’s works – above all the fact, that someone watching the world via reflections is simultaneously avoiding direct eye contact and “showing the world one’s back”. This way the artist refuses active participation in life and tells phenomena and events as optical pageant. Who is familiar with Lieder’s art knows his many works “reflecting” lonesomeness, melancholy, and yearning- so as “Abschied” (1999, “Goodbye”), “Tod in Venedig” (1999, “Death in Venice”), “Sehnsucht” (2004, “Yearning”), “Sonnensucher” (2005, “Sunseeker”), “Herbstsonate” (2004, “Autumn Sonata”) just to name only some of them. Gerd Lieder’s life is circling around his – obsessive – work and his family. This he declares when naming one of the loving portraits of his wife Chris in the double sense “Lichtblick” (2005, “View of Light”) or when managing in the reflection a real fusion in “Kopf an Kopf” (2004, “Head to Head”). This way one can learn from Lieder’s works about realities and something about the artist as well.
Fortunately the artist follows an unswerving course – and as he is in addition to this very diligent and hard working, he can present an already voluminous oeuvre. In this context it is amazing how many aspects Gerd Lieder reclaims from the topic “reflections”. Still life, portrait, nude, landscape and painting of architecture- almost all genres of pictorial arts can be found. What ever scene Gerd Lieder is going in for – the result is utmost aesthetic and brilliant in the craft’s sense: conceptual pictorial art of its best.
Reflexes and Reflections
Logically the title of this book describes the artistic position of Gerd Lieder. On his pages a panorama of images unfolds revealing the artist sensitive view of his surroundings. The cosmos of his insight has become even more differentiated and broadened compared to the previous catalogues and publications. Once again Lieder presents himself as a thorough but never uncritical observer of his environment. This is influenced directly by his surroundings and his family who has become the subject of his works more than ever before and by the world and the worlds which he has experienced and artistically processed during his numerous travels. Burckhardt’s famous chapter “Die Entdeckung der Welt und des Menschen” („The Discovery of the World and the Human Being“) 1 could be the leitmotif of Lieder’s works. “I travel through the world carrying different mirrors in my luggage and I arrange my reflections or I use what is there.” 2 The artist is mesmerized by the speed of his time, by the vibrations of big cities like New York or Dubai and their endless changes, which he records in a transient reflection that he slowly reveals in his pictures.
“Gegensätze und Widersprüche, das ist unsere Harmonie” (“opposites and contradictions, this is our harmony”) 3 is the pro-cess coined by Kandinsky, where the artist condenses diverging appearances, impressions, and aspects into his work of art. From antagonisms like near and far, inside and outside, traditional and modern Lieder develops new structures of order which enable us to experience his work as unity in variety 4. Thereby working with mirrors is a substantial moment of creation, as
- the mirror as a traditional speculum mundi sums up a picture of the world like in the scholastic philosophy for the first time.
- the distorted mirror submits a picture of the world according to the artist’s conception of the world; Thus the mimetic reflection created through the mirror is followed by the reflected creation of the artist Gerd Lieder.
- the artist is never bound to the reflected picture, instead the mirror is subjected to the intentions of the artist.
“I collect and record reflections from multifaceted facilities, facets and examples and I make a spontaneous selection.” 5 Gerd Lieder has devotedly worked with mirrors for years, and has had numerous expositions and has been published in two prestigious catalogues. Lieder uses the mirror similar to a scout who differentiates and intensifies his perception with the use of an optical instrument. Like a research project Gerd Lieder uses precise questions in his conception and realization of his works resulting in different categories. The formulation of these questions Lieder often substantiates through his titles, which then like comments or interpretation facilities extend the pure pictorial statement (e. g. “Changing Lanes” or “Supernova”).
Apart from themes from the very private life of the artist (wife and daughter in diverse variations and transformations) architecture is becoming a major theme in his work. For the artist it is obvious: here is the ideal facility to combine tradition and progress as well as to confront them. The works “Dresdens Seele” (”The Soul of Dresden”) and “Gehry 2” impressively illustrate this. Between the static of the architectural structures and the dynamics of their refraction – first through the mirror then in the ”REFLECTION PICTURE” – Gerd Lieder develops an area of conflict which is on display in his brilliant painting style. Like only a few artists of his time Lieder is able to freeze “distortions which symbolize a fast-moving, pulsating, never still standing time” 6 in a perfected, quasi masterly technique without fixing the causes of movement. In this context Lieder’s art is described by the basic positions of Heraklit which are often (falsely) explained by the formula panta rhei. But in fact Heraklit compares the frequent changes of life and experience to a river 7 and thus he meets the sensibilities of the artist who describes the constant change in his surroundings through his reflections. This book impressively illustrates the transformations and metamorphoses of people, landscapes and architectures. Even the sequence of the reproductions in this catalogue is determined by Lieder’s imagination of floating, the constant renewal of the consistent. In the first reproduction “Yellow Cab” he shows the process of dissipation in the bright light whereas the end of the catalogue “Streiflichter” (”Highlights”) records night visions of refracted lights in an urban scene.
Just as in the “Ulysses” by James Joyce the story takes place in a day, Gerd Lieder arranges the pictures in his catalogue in a similar way. The macrocosms of the world and of humanity are reflected in the microcosms of Gerd Lieder’s art in a double sense. Lieder’s scope of technique illustrates variations and changes in his art and his signature has gained more subjectivity. In addition to his accomplished technique the use of spatula and palette knife give the surface of the single paintings another relief and clear haptic qualities (”Supernova”, ”Diva”, ”View of Light”, ”Scyscraper”). The viewer notices these elevations on the surface as perceptible vibrations and therefore feels the fluctuating moment not only spiritually in the theme but also in the material used for the picture.
It should be noted that an artist like Gerd Lieder always clearly addresses his audience, he never withholds information instead he always explains himself. He wishes to include the viewer into his perspective, “to enable us to look through his eyes” 8. This distinction separates him from other modern artists of all disciplines, who love the idea of being difficult or impossible to understand. Inspired by Marcel Proust Lieder named his first two catalogues “Reflection of Worlds – Worlds of Reflections” thereby reflecting his artistic credo. Thus the only true journey is not the one into other countries but the one into other realities. Look upon the world another way, see the many worlds we live in.