Sometimes, the past catches up with us, and this confrontation with history can be painful, especially when it is about our own past. This was the case when Rolf Sellmann began cleaning out the house of his dead mother in early 2015. In the process, he came upon found pieces and personal photographs of his father Hans Sellmann (1919–2001) that revealed a weighty chapter of his life history that had been previously kept secret.
The documents came from the Nazi era. Like so many others from the period, Hans Sellmann fell for the totalitarian ideology, like so many others he willingly went to war sure of victory, like so many others he hid his Nazi past after 1945, perhaps hoping to wipe away his trauma through silence.
Rolf Sellmann’s search for traces in his parent’s home in Norderstedt near Hamburg meant for him a biographic break and an artistic turning point at the same time. This resulted in the series inside out.
A series of colorful, abstract images, and it seems that the emotional disturbance that must have grasped the artist when he encountered the dark past of his father is palpable. Works like brown battlefield, burned down, or this world once and now seem virtually to glow, present apocalyptic landscapes, capturing the wartime tactic of “scorched earth” symbolically on the canvas.
In June 2015, Roll Sellmann showed the presentation home again at his parents’ house, at the location where the material was found, friends and neighbors could examine what was carefully hidden for decades. An exhibition that went beyond a pure art event, an exhibition that many will remember.