the order of the irrational

Looking for the thing that characterized the work of Rolf Sellmann reveals the shocking variety to which his paintings and objects attest.

While it is true of most contemporary art production that their creators do not rely on a “signature,” and most importantly do not rely on a figurative patent solution, Sellmann uses artistic freedom to an extent done only by someone who is highly experimental by nature.

For this principle, which can be seen as an antidote to any form of rigid insistence on principle, the series the order of the irrational offers an especially striking example. Here, things join that according to the general art historical consensus do not belong together: against a diffuse color background, against freely floating shapes, geometric shapes emerge: squares, rhomboids, polygons, or lines.

This coordinate system stretches across the entire image surface, in this way structuring and dividing up the spontaneous rhythm of the lower level. One of these paintings is called Seelenquadrate, or Soul Squares, a title that is not without a touch of waggishness, because if nobody knows where the soul can be found in the human being, this mysterious-substanceless organ would be absolutely impossible to map with a network of squares.

Physics refers to interference when two or more waves (regardless whether sound, light, or material) overlap. The most famous example for this phenomenon is surely the double slit experiment, carried out for the first time in 1802. If the waves cancel one another out, this is called destructive interference. If they amplify one another, this is a case of constructive interference.

The images of the series the order of the irrational are examples of the latter. The impulsive, spontaneous nature of the brushstroke is emphasized by the contrast of the controlled lines—and vice versa.

  • danger zone; Mischtechnik auf Leinwand; ca. 145 x 100 x 4 cm; 2010
    danger zone
  • orange box; Mischtechnik auf Lw; 150 x 100 x 2 cm; 2011
    orange box
  • rays out of the blue; Mischtechnik auf Lw; 160 x 120 x 4 cm; 2015
    rays out of the blue
  • Seelenquadrate; Mischtechnik auf Lw; 100 x 80 x 2 cm; 2011