History grows in colors and structures
The paintings of Bruno Siegenthaler - abstract from an essay by Maria Becker
The images entice you to read their signs, to interpret the behavior of their colors, some murky-opaque, others well-lit transparent. Their surfaces are always raised, carved from scratches and cracks in layers of materials and pigments.
Siegenthaler’s images are layered and complex, they have at once the depth of a lake and the tactility of a relief, the gestures of characters and the language of patterns, the luster of metal and the dullness of stone. They are the result of a lengthy process.
The image creates a language that must be studied over and over again. Not only the artist but also the viewer of the painting has to do his bit.
The artist starts from the material, its structures, faults, elevation and resistance.
These are not just a medium for shape and color, but the matter also speaks through itself.
The substance placed on the canvas is the starting point for a molding process that is as important for the image as the artist's intention, which launches him.
Growth and destruction as a forming process of the image
Bruno Siegenthaler images are generated by complex stratification and erosion processes. He pours and spatters color glazes, brings earth and sand to the canvas, adds textiles and papers, draws gestural lines and contours. The application of solid materials often requires a long drying time. This is one reason why the artist often creates several works side by side. Nevertheless, a series is not one of his goals. Each image is a single work, which can stand alone, and claims its own time and attention. "There is first a building up of material. I need a basic structure, so that the image suddenly can say to me, where it will go. "
In the beginning there is often a "pollution" of the white blanc canvas by spontaneous gestures. Then, materials are applied, mixed, combined and often ablated again. Siegenthaler experiments with the material, always trying forms of expression, new substances and ways of depositing and positioning them. Ultimately the structures, colors and lines transform to an independent entity that speaks a new, unknown language.
Experimenting with the material represents one of the basic drives of his art. It fascinates him to play with the material, to mix it and often to destroy it again. Not only construction but also destruction constitute the images. Many show massive scratch and crack marks, notches and grooves like an ancient wall or tanned skin. There is sometimes a real struggle with the image. "I want to get to the bottom of things, scrape off layers, see what's underneath. I want to search and see how something has arisen. That's part of what I bring to the canvas. The process has to involve more than just application of color to the picture, which has to suffer, it is often scraped off, destroyed, re-applied. This is like in real life, there are scars. "Such an approach takes time. This is also an essential element in the work of Siegenthaler. In these works time is imbedded - like in a peeling wall or a furrowed face.
An encounter with Emil Schumacher was, looking back, the decisive impulse for Siegenthaler’s own painting. He had previously painted and drawn representationally.
But Siegenthaler had been occupied even early on with abstract and experimental forms of images, which he found for example in the works of Antoni Tapies and even Vincent Gogh. Van Gogh’s impasto application of paint and the relief of his expressive painting gave Siegenthaler the impetus to move away from representational forms of expression. Finally, Tapies was an artist who created his images from the substance of the materials he worked with, and he sought proximity to the archaic imagery. In his work the relationship to Siegenthaler images is directly palpable.
There are other influences, if you will. To name a few, there are Tachism, action painting and art brut. Siegenthaler paintings have a bit of all these trends, they are an idiosyncratic blend of various influences, in which a major trend is evident: it is the visualization of the processes of transience, of traces, which have been engraved into the matter.