In our approach to things, the objects themselves are not the only relevant aspect: what separates them spatially, what takes place between them, is also crucial. This is something that children find out very early on in life. For example, when they learn the song “Was müssen das für Bäume sein?” in kindergarten. The lyrics to this popular German song read as follows in translation: “Trees on the right, trees on the left/in the middle there’s the in-between.” The “in-between,” usually neglected by our perception or only considered as a gap at best, takes on a central role in Rolf Sellmann’s series Shining, which he began in 2017.How so? The artist, always a fan of color, awakening Kandinsky’s key work Colorful Life (1907) to a new dynamism in a contemporary form, discovered the astonishing luminosity of day-glo colors more or less by accident. If day glo colors have such power, do they develop their impact when they are used in unspectacular locations, for example, on the edges or backs of picture supports? This was the point of departure for a fascinating experiment: Sellmann painted otherwise unnoticed areas in day glo orange and observed something surprising: “the light, be it artificial light or daylight, lets the day glo paint shine in such a way that there is a ‘corona effect’ around where paint was applied. This means the reflection of the paint gives a shimmer of color to its surroundings.” The series shining thus focuses attention on the interstitial spaces, the in-between.
In the process, there are different variants: on the one hand, an installation of 30 small canvases densely primed with Prussian blue oil paint (crossings and surroundings), on the other a simple white wooden ring, painted on the rear and the inside edge and—somewhat more complex—an ensemble consisting of a white U-profile strip, a white wooden ring, and the rear of a stretcher, also painted white (in Anlehnung 1), and finally works on paper: four individual sheets that demonstrate the variety of luminous effects in various combinations (Paris shining 1-3).
Rolf Sellmann here takes up the tradition of 1960s op art and develops it further: fascinated by the physical laws of light and optics, artists of the period like François Morellet, Bridget Riley or Victor Vasarely explored the study of visual phenomena and surveyed the possibilities of deceiving the eye: a broad field that is far from being studied exhaustively. Sellmann’s series of works shining proves this: it is subtle and playful, it brings color into motion, and not least appeals to the beholder to change their point of view. Only in this way can he grasp the colorful play of day glo color all its facets, with overlaps, the shadings and the “white spots” in the realm of their “area of intersection.” “The mysteries take place at Central Station,” Joseph Beuys once said. Perhaps we can vary this quotation and apply it to Sellmann’s shining series: “The mysteries take place in the in-between.”