80 years Jürgen Waller. 60 years art

Special presentation in the framework of The Way We Are 1.0

20.07.2019 - 01.09.2019
Jürgen Waller, o.T. aus der Serie "Schwarze Sonne", 1999

On the occasion of the 80th birthday of Jürgen Waller, four simultaneous exhibitions are being devoted to the oeuvre of this painter – at the Weserburg Museum for Modern Art, the Kunsthalle Bremen, the University of the Fine Arts in the Dechanatstraße in Bremen, and the Galerie Birgit Waller.

In a room specially set up for the purpose, the Weserburg is presenting works from the series Schwarze Sonne (‘Black Sun’) which the artist has been working on since 1985.

Jürgen Waller’s painting comes explicitly from the tradition of figurative depiction, from scenes focusing on the human figure and its working world. In 1972 , the daily newspaper Der Tagesspiegel even characterised him as a ‘representative of realism’. Thus all the more amazement is occasioned by the turn to monochrome abstraction evinced by his black paintings and undertaken ever since 1985. Yet even in these works, Jürgen Waller sees the realisation of a clearly realistic potential. Because the black paintings as well proceed from human beings and the environment that surrounds them – for example, in their absence, in associations on the shadows they cast or the buildings they inhabit – and conduct a fundamental investigation into the question as to whether reality can actually be represented in a recognisable way.

The initial impetus for the untitled black paintings is provided in 1985 by a visit to a coal mine in Oberhausen. The underground darkness, the miners, and the gloomy light with its distortion of details become an important influence for Jürgen Waller. In 1988 this tendency is further enhanced when, during a sojourn in New York, he discovers the light of the setting sun between the Twin Towers as it is darkened into blackness. From that point on, charcoal constitutes the principal material of Waller’s painting and determines the depiction on his large-format canvases of what can scarcely be represented. But a figurative element continues to be inscribed in pictorial grounds which first seem monochrome inasmuch as, upon closer inspection, geometrical forms, urban silhouettes and/or abbreviations of landscapes can be recognised.


In 2002, Eugen Gomringer wrote with regard to Waller’s black pictures: ‘in order to approach the oeuvre of jürgen waller, at least with regard to the well-known black pictures, no notion is more suitable than that of discovery – in several senses. discovery implies an act of uncovering and revealing, the bringing to light of what was concealed as well as the surprising encounter with something. this means that it is always a matter on the one hand of a mystery, or better – in order to remain vague – of something mysterious, whereby also deceptions – such as columbus’ belief in having discovered an oceanic route to india, even though it was only america – can likewise become positive insights.  […]

the black paintings of jürgen waller are – as is revealed to us by the genesis of their development – deep pictures. regardless of how black and dark they appear to us, they do not stand opposite us and push us away; on the contrary, they draw us in with an attraction which just might have to do in fact with magic and the black arts. […]’

(from: Waller, exhib. cat. Neues Museum Weserburg Bremen, 2002, pp. 10 and 12).