87 x 52 x 3 cm
Acrylic on fiberboard
Collection Museum Haus Konstruktiv
Donated by Margit and Rolf Weinberg
Objektstudie III [Study of an Object III]
Ulrich Elsener (born 1943 in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland) was a member of the Winterthur Concretists, a group of artists founded by Willy Müller-Brittnau, Rainer Alfred Auer, Manfred Schoch, and others in the 1970s. Elsener studied to become a chemical engineer but gave up his vocation shortly after graduation to establish his career as a painter in Winterthur. He became inspired by Frank Stella and began experimenting with geometric abstraction, making objects and reliefs in formats dictated by the picture’s subject. Often painted in primary colors, these works became representative for his style in the 1970s. Elsener went on to take part in countless exhibitions from 1973 on, including the “7 Winterthurer Konkrete” with Willy Müller-Brittnau, Heinz-Müller-Tosa, and others in 1971.
His work “Objektstudie III” (1972), which is in the collection of Museum Haus Konstruktiv collection, shows a pointy, dark grey rhombus that appears to have a glowing soft light radiating from its center. The shape of the rhombus is repeated within at regular intervals, while the gray color grows gradually lighter from the edges to the center. The two ends with acute angles are slightly offset from one another, creating the impression that two identical rhombuses are superimposed. The light refracted by the inner structure appears like a symbiosis of crystalline form and ephemeral illumination.
Elsener has been exploring the habits and conventions of how we see things for a long time and claims that a “picture is the condensed core of new ideas.” Because of this and his interest in figuration, he turned to figurative painting for good in the 1980s. At this time, he began making abstract figurative paintings of forms that appear emblematic and faint. Influenced by Walter Benjamin’s (1892–1940) powerful essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1935–36), in which the author analyzes the artwork’s loss of aura as a result of its reproducibility, Elsener began to combine photocopied pictures with gestural paintings. His more recent series – “Landkarten-Bilder” [Map Pictures], “Seekarten” [Nautical Charts], “Inseln/Kontinente” [Islands, Continents], “Stadtpläne” [City Maps] – show portraits and human figures merging with landscape topography and geographical maps. If not for the focus on the act of painting over these images and how this contrasts with reproduction, these pictures could be understood to propagate an ecologically sustainable way of living in harmony with nature.
Dominique von Burg