this is (not) a landscape
What makes a work of art a landscape? Before modernism suspended our traditional aesthetic beliefs, such a question would have virtually answered itself. Landscape painting, according to the classical definition, focuses on a segment of nature, depicting flora and fauna, hills and mountains, rivers and the ocean—of course through the lens of the individual artist’s personality, but the clearly identifiable motif is always kept in sight.
It’s clear that Rolf Sellman’s series this is (not) a landscape would not fit that traditional pattern. This would not even require the title, which cites René Magritte’s famous title Ceci n’est pas une pipe: the surrealist was pointing out something that is actually self-evident, but that perception stubbornly ignores. The image of an object is something different than the object itself, although it is similar to it.
Something similar is true of Rolf Sellmann’s pictures: anyone who doesn’t think of a seascape must be blind for the ocean. The blue water surface and the green-yellow sky form a unit (green horizon), then there is the view of a coastline as subtle nuances in gray, red, and beige (the grey coast). At most, a wave occasionally breaks out (the wave (Husum)) in these paintings, which can be located on the threshold between figuration and abstraction, and can equally be considered sea impressions and a field of action for delicate brushstrokes and supple painting.
One needs to look carefully to realize that the artist has smuggled a minimal disturbance into each work. Here, the perfect seeming surface is partially broken up, while elsewhere the painting sets accents of its own within the landscape or within the continuum of a fine gradation of color.