135 x 111 cm
Acrylic on canvas
Collection Museum Haus Konstruktiv
Donated by Stiftung Lis und Roman Clemens
Hommage à l'espace – la vie [Homage to space – life]
The German stage designer and painter Roman Clemens (born 1910 in Dessau, Germany, died 1992 in Zurich, Switzerland) was fascinated by space throughout his entire career. His curriculum vita is a typical example of the double lives of many constructivist and concrete artists working additionally as designers, architects, stage designers, photographers, or typographers, constantly moving back and forth between art, the everyday world of commodities, and design.
As a student at the Bauhaus (1927–1931) during the time when Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, and Oskar Schlemmer were teachers there, Roman Clemens came to understand theater as “bringing together all artistic areas.” Unlike his teachers, who primarily made stage designs with a play’s characters in mind, it was the stage as a space in itself that played a decisive role for Clemens. He created innovative spatial interventions as a stage designer in Dessau (until 1932) and at the opera in Zurich (until 1943), while simultaneously exploring spatial dimensions as a painter. He was a key innovator of German-speaking theater in the first half of the 20th century, and his idea was to reform the ostentatious world of stage sets by integrating reduced designs based on the Bauhaus ideal of a gesamtkunstwerk. He sometimes designed a stage as a space of action that was full of tension, other times as a space that dissolved into large slide projections. He also integrated elements of the Bauhaus aesthetic and new lighting effects. His scenography for Alban Berg’s “Lulu” and his exemplary design for Jacques Offenbach’s “Hoffmanns Erzählungen” (1934) are proof of how stage design is able to keep pace with developments in the formal language of visual art. In 1945, he began working as a freelance artist and architect in Zurich, and in 1951, he began to rework many of his earlier designs that he had not carried through, transforming these into abstract spatial designs using the Bauhaus vocabulary of forms. In the following decades, he created concrete and constructivist pictures that increasingly reveal a similarity to the style of the Zurich Concretes. He also designed modular structures, parallelograms, demi-cubes, and three-dimensional geometric shapes whose spatial structures always refer to the illusionistic space of the stage.
In 1990, the Kunsthaus Zurich presented an exhibition of his works from 1970 to 1980, and in 1992 (the year of his death) the Lis and Roman Clemens Foundation was founded with the mission to promote and support young stage designers and to distinguish them with an award.
Dominique von Burg