37 x 36 cm
Pencil on paper
Gift of the artist
(Z 350 D)
Peter Somm (born 1940 in Sulgen, Switzerland) began to paint when he was young. His early works were predominantly abstract and were inspired by the pictorial worlds of Paul Klee and Johannes Itten. He was fundamentally self-taught, and he worked as an anesthesiologist until 1999. After he became encouraged by one of his paintings being shown in the annual exhibition of Zurich artists in 1969, he began to reduce his pictorial means even more, developing an oeuvre of paintings that oscillate between a geometric-concrete approach and a growing concentration on the experience of pure color and light effects.
In terms of form, Somm’s artistic practice is based on series, or rather variations of themes. This has resulted in the development of many series of works, some of which are quite extensive: grisailles with orthogonal structures (1969–1970), colored rectangular compositions (1970–1971), flat or linear rotations (1971–1976), arc and line pictures (1973–1975), horizontally condensed landscape formats or horizons (1983–2012), concentric circular formations (1995–2011), cross paintings (1993–1995), and finally his so-called yin and yang pictures (2001–2013), which are diptych-style paintings with complementary principles of design.
All of his works created since 1970 share a chromatics that consists of slender units. Somm uses these to distance himself not only from the relational understanding of pictures of the Zurich Concretists, but also from an undifferentiated and seamless color gradient he regards as too diffuse. As he has stressed many times – most prominently in the catalog for his exhibition in the Museum zu Allerheiligen in Schaffhausen in 1984 – his main focus is not on flatness, but rather on the effect of depth. In other words, with Somm’s “structural principle of a continuous series of color shades in layered levels” in mind, his goal is to suggest “vastness, infinity, and transcendence.” His choice of colors also adheres to this idea; they often have a “cosmic” nature, while their vibration and fluctuation is somewhat reminiscent of Victor Vasarely’s Op Art, specially his late “universal structures.”