signals from the outskirts of my mind
Treasures from the Visual Mine of the Unconscious
To tap the sources of creativity inaccessible to consciousness, in the 1920s the surrealists resorted to the method of écriture automatique. “Automatic writing” is about bringing words and sentences to paper in a spontaneous, associative, and seemingly arbitrary way, with no plan, no intention, no goal, no dictate of reason. With cadavre exquis and frottage, the surrealists applied strategies that assign a role to chance in the visual arts as well. With a lasting impact: still today, painters and drawers find themselves pursuing the traces of écriture automatique. Rolf Sellmann is one of these artists who unearth treasures from the rich mine of the unconscious, beyond controlled composition.
This is impressively demonstrated by Sellmann’s recent series 5. Against a background that is usually vibrantly colored, cascades of whirling signs develop that the artist applies to the canvas as if in a trance. A bustling chaos stretches over the entire pictorial surface, usually vertical in format, and lends the creations an enormous dynamism, in various, usually garish colors.
Allez les bleus is the slogan that the fans of the French National Soccer Team use to cheer on their players: of course blue, white, and red set the tone here. Green and yellow dominate the painting green day, while black takes the upper hand in the back to black series.
Referring to abstract, and yet organic-seeming ornamentation, reminiscent of arabesques in Islamic art, the artist speaks of “signs like hieroglyphs.” But what do they seek to communicate, these hieroglyphs? The written signs at issue here are certainly not undecipherable, as is the case for Egyptian hieroglyphs. Rolf Sellmann’s signals from the outskirts of my mind rather communicate a mood, an atmosphere. Intense, impulsive, agitated, unbridled: adjectives like these could be used to described the atmosphere. But the genuine matter at hand remains unutterable, as it should be for art that earns its name.
Text by Dr. Jörg Restorff (Kunsthistoriker and Journalist)