39.5 x 46.5 x 2.5 cm
Acrylic, ball pen, pigment marker on MDF
Collection Museum Haus Konstruktiv
Purchase made possible by the bequest of Elisabeth Lauener
The small-format works by Bernd Ribbeck (born 1974 in Cologne, Germany) always show arrangements of geometric forms drawn with acrylic, ballpoint pen, or permanent markers and touch-up pens on medium density fiberboard (MDF). His compositions consist of many overlapping layers of colors that are painted in different styles as well as geometric lines that have been rubbed off and retouched many times, with the effect that they seem ingrained in the picture and support. This impression is enhanced by the spar varnish that Ribbeck usually applies to the board as a finish, giving the overall work a unified sheen. This sheen suggests spatial depth that is additionally intensified through the dark palette of intense colors.
The symmetrically arranged formations seem to acquire symbolic meaning through their glow from within, which is produced through strong contrasts and the use of white, yellow, and orange tones. A tension emerges between the blurry, open planes and geometric lines, creating a pictorial language built on the synthesis of logical and open systems of order and the powerful, deep impact of the colors.
Ribbeck, who was a student in Helmut Federle’s master class, creates a kind of painting that does not radiate the distant, cool objectivity of Concrete Art. Instead, he uses the rich vocabulary of forms of classic modernism, integrating well-known formal patterns, structures, and signs in his often kaleidoscopic and crystalline-like pictures, like the orphic cubism of Robert and Sonia Delaunay, or the faceted compositions of Lyonel Feininger. Ribbeck’s works lend new life to the genuine link between geometric abstraction and metaphysical spheres, letting this energy unfold in a pictorial space of wonderfully structured surfaces and backgrounds that are only hinted at.
Although the artist does not share modernism’s utopian faith in the future, he expresses modernist attitudes and some of modernism’s seemingly lost themes – for example, Theo van Doesburg’s idea of the “phenomenon of pure, inherent harmony.” (1) In today’s world of profound societal changes that are based on all kinds of catastrophic scenarios, the longing for an order that provides stability continues to grow. In this light, a world of images built on elementary and harmonic laws such as Bernd Ribbeck’s seems more relevant than ever today.
Dominique von Burg
(1) See Theo van Doesburg in Werner Haftmann, Malerei im 20. Jahrhundert, vol. 1, 6th ed. (Munich: Prestel, 1979), p. 463.