The Impetus of the Vital Spark

Posted by Tim Rietenbach on
‘‘Heaven Complex Number 1"
Photo by Nutopia Ltd
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author. 

In conversation with students, I’m constantly saying, you need to get in front of the work. Google is as much of a problem as it is a solution. One of the more frequent uses of that suggestion, is in regard to the paintings of Mondrian, although he is best known for his innovations in the evolution of abstraction and utopian perfection, I find the real power to be in his subtle layering and building up of surfaces. I can now point to this film as a new and improved, next best way to look at his paintings.

This episode meanders through artist that explore some of the more challenging social issues. A collection of artist known for their visceral use of material, such as lead, sugar, gunpowder, stone salvaged from the ruble of bomb sites. In each case their sensory approach to material directly impacts meaning.

I enjoyed the conversational tone of this episode. Anslem Kiefer describing his discovering of the voice of Hitler, Kara Walker finding her influences in genre painting and Cai Guo-Qiang’s connection to explosions all make the conversation about authenticity.

In a recent visit to New York, I had the opportunity to view the Whitney exhibition entitled “An Incomplete History of Protest” which included works by Kara Walker. The ‘incomplete’ was palpable. For some reason, we are still debating the same fundamental truths that define our humanity. The work included in this exhibition dares to questioned the abuses of authority. That impetus is the same spark that motivates me to continually go back to the drawing board.

I was not familiar with the work of Michal Rovner, her animations of migrating bodies are extraordinary. Her use of scale both exemplifies the futility of the problem while inventing a very distinct visualization of the figure in motion. Brutal and beautiful at the same time. Her sculptural work is equally impressive at confronting complex power structures and human scale.

I watched this episode with my son who is currently studying film and video.

Amongst all other aspects of this episode, he was impressed at the quality of documentation and camera work throughout. His focus on the manner in which the film is photographed and edited made me realized that I have been taking the production quality for granted. I began to pay much closer attention.

Tim RietenbachTim Rietenbach lives and works in Columbus Ohio, currently a Professor of Fine Arts at Columbus College of Art & Design and represented exclusively by Angela Meleca Gallery. You can see more of his work at

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