Virgil Grotfeldt’s first connection with Amsterdam as a public artist came with the invitation from Catherine Hemmer to exhibit at the Theeboom Gallery.1 It was during that visit that the two artists became acquainted. The symbolic bonding between them can be traced to a specfic gesture during the visit of Grotfeldt to Berlin when Bien’s residence there was coming to an end. The gesture was the handing of a bag of coal dust from the residue of the Death Room Interior.
During a walk in Berlin they found old account books and Grotfeldt made drawings on the text. For the most part Grotfeldt was busy with using black and bronze powders. This intimate and restricted use of color has been a central concern of both artists since 1991. As late as 1998, for example, Bien has used the first set of placenta sheets (from the natal of Mathijs) and placed them with black canvases. The range of black is also explored in his series Tableau Européen. The discussion within art historical writing of the color black is long and complex. For the modern period one may say that Manet and Matisse (under the influence of Delacroix) had freed black from use as a tonal value for shadow, and treated it as an independent color. Malevitch, Picabia, Frank Stella, Mark Rothko, and Ad Reinhardt continued with this modernist fascination, and Bernd Growe, a pupil of Max Imhdal, ranks the Maegt exhibition of 1945 and the 1981 Düsseldorf exhibition, Schwarz, (Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, catalogue edited by Hanna Weitemeir) as exemplification of a major modernist trend. Whilst any art historical attempt at a history of color (see the recent research of Gage) will inevitably face the problem of ‘real subjectivity’, the relationship between color, line and the picture can at least, in individually documented instances, be followed.2
In the art historical discussion the range of questions had confined itself to the problem of whether black was a color and therefore understood in terms of color contrasts and secondly whether it was to be understood on the light-dark scale and be seen as a form of pictorial ‘auxiliary’ etc.
In their discussions Bien reports that they thought of the problem of their initial work as a ‘liquidising’ activity. The slow observation of pigment sinking and sometimes drifting on the chosen material ground. The coal – flower – light triad is a way of trying to grasp the Goethean view of transformation, and not only by studying form, but from the concrete materiality.
The question of collaboration did not arise in the immediate first meeting. Although one can point in the work of Bien to co-operative acts with artists, indeed starting with Beuys himself during the Regal Star-project, Grotfeldt must have found the idea initially strange. _If method had been developed by Bien as a form of overcoming of alienation and distance, nevertheless the possibility of creating a community of work, a mutuality of activity, in which individual characteristics remain, has always been very attractive. Sometimes, and quite deliberately, the issue of individual authorship becomes blurred, the aspect of bricolage and close personal involvement, makes it difficult at times, especially in the relations with Kloppenburg, to ascribe a definite ‘authorship’ to works, and at the same time, as with the Archive for the Future, the issue of authorship remains clear, even though there was years of mutual help and exchange. This goes some way towards explaining features of Bien’s which may at first seem puzzling, the incorporation of works of other artists in his own works – Schönenborn, Rutkowsky, etc. – and the re-deployment of a strategy of blurred boundaries to create the possibility of co-creation, by this I mean that one can sometimes chart from the works a personal stylistic assimilation, a kind of symbiosis between artists, which makes the question of authorship redundant. The elimination of possessive individualism in favour of co-operation, sharing and mutual exchange, represents through the 90’s a change away from the ‘heroic isolation’ of much of the previous years, and an avoidance of cannibalising the work of the ‘other’.
The complex work with Semah had initiated a thoughtful understanding of the problem of the ‘other’ and the issue of understanding led to, in some instances, a curious dilemma. Semah had made the notion of ‘otherness’ into an ontological property, which replicated the old dichotomy of subject-object, locking effectively into a static bifurcation, and indeed replicating the old duality in the form of dialogue chosen while at the same time circumscribing it in a conceptual overdetermination. A compatiblist account could on the terms chosen never be achieved. Otherness was reified into a category and even the exchange was increasingly bi-furcated. With Kloppenburg the relationship was mobile and often highly interlaced. With the earliest work of Virgil Grotfeldt [_1994-014 ] the small square which moves over the canvas is considered, indicating the acceptance by both artists of their respective needs for the exchange itself. For the American artist the problem of ‘frontier’ includes the possibility of a mythic method. The problem of territory and the frontier, _the exploration of space, remain powerful enduring myths where the idea of rugged individualism is construed as a process of re-territorialisation, even as a ‘negative way’, the reduction to emptiness, creating a trope of survival and renewal. This is not very distant from Bien’s mythos, the problem of rebirth, the incessant work of transformation which places in question the whole system of ‘grammar’ for the visual arts. Bien never proposes a concept of Gesamtkunstwerk, and indeed in some cases he has taken the Steinerian-Beuysian developments to their problematic opposite. The concrete and often chance-filled method of Bien with the readiness to co-operate with other artists has moved him away from esoteric and transcendentalist claims for art. The real logic of Bien’s development is himself – at no point does he propose a theory of art and society outside of his own personal experience. In the work with Grotfeldt we are as much concerned with the question of friendship as with painting. This is pictorial conversation. The mutuality of work itself creates a deepening of the friendship. Conversation with Grotfeldt and Bien can be seen to be much less agonistic than with Semah. On the one hand, there is in the earliest work with Grotfeldt a definite movement away from the iconographically dense and expressionistic visualising of Grotfeldt’s earliest painting, to a form of meditative exploration with much more subdued palette and exploration of intricate and delicate forms and, on the other hand, for Bien, we can trace a relaxing of the often sculpturally motivated shapes that recur – funnel, lying figures, stone, blocks etc. – to a mysterious graphism. Initially there is a nervous hesitation, a tentative and exploratory placing of marks, the placing of linguistic reference on drawings completely abandoned as in the Arabia Felix notebook, made during a trip to the Yemen, were the linguistic description of colors, intended to be filled in later, have remained as aide memoire for the artist.
“Suddenly, after knowing him, and meeting him in Amsterdam, Houston, Philadelphia, New York and Berlin we came to a point where we both felt we should talk. It was difficult before this to meet. I was on a very abstract level, and he expressed ideas in a simple, grounded way. I thought, let’s not talk, let’s paint. I saw that the brush was his strongest expression. I had given him the carbon left over from the Death Room Interior, and he started painting with it. I had not looked at it as pigment, more as light. All the drawings and the paintings later with the carbon is something Grotfeldt brought into my life. I was amazed by the depth of his brushstrokes. Earlier dialogues with Joseph had ended up going around in circles. There was never any progress, and it was frustrating. Out of this frustration and a desire to create a pedestal for a dialogue I said to Virgil that we should do that on canvas. We bought twelve little canvases and we started working, we had no plan and we didn’t look at what the other was doing. The dialogue is afterwards. We discussed afterwards what should go together and where. With Virgil, I made a green square on the border of the first two canvases done together.“
The green was chosen as accidentally as one can imagine, Bien had found an old tin of paint, a color of lint yellow green. The early series from Bien’s side is still busy with impressions from a trip to South America. The trip to Lima and Machu Pichu, Cusco, Bolivia and Easter Island with Kloppenburg in 1994 was very much in Bien’s mind, particularly the sacred stones, the form of which appears in the canvases of the first series. The small head which appears is traceable to the gift of a head made to Bien and which appears in Made in Belgium [_1995-025 ], and on which he has written describing it as the Urkopf in the Goethean sense of the Urpflanze.
In his account of this early exchange Bien brings forward the idea of a ‘frontier’ life, the relationship between freedom and territory as an adventure or mutual recognition, “ when I picked up the canvas my hand went into the paint, and created a curious Dutch landscape, he did not allow me paint on his territory, but allowed me access physically. We were very close.“
The issue of collaboration was confirmed in a communication from Grotfeldt when he was requested to supply a note in writing on the work with Bien over the previous 4 years. “Waldo originally introduced the concept of collaboration to me during a visit I made to Amsterdam in 1994. While I was intrigued by the idea, I must say it also made me a bit nervous since I was unfamiliar with this thinking. I was still mentally conditioned to thinking of final work in terms of aesthetics and a unified whole. For both of us it was a real journey into space -the unknown frontier. At this point we were neither sure of the direction we were going or its outcome. These first works were awkward, to say the least, on an aesthetic level maybe not the best. But time and others will decide that issue. When Waldo suggested the three-sided frame, it gave direction and helped solidify the concept of dialogue – an ongoing conversation.”
In the first series, unlike in some of the later ones, the artists do not share material. Taking number 1 in the series as the square centre piece it can be observed that it is the ‘emptiest’ of the series, much of the canvas is left visible and the areas of paint are discrete if not evasive of each other. This agreed overlap in the territory is the most consistent communication, the broad polarities of working from darkness to light and light towards darkness with which both artists work is clearly indicated here only in respect of the choice of materials. The bright green with its high tonal key is starkly contrasting to the indigo of Grotfeldt. The shapes are rhizomatic with Bien’s conical forms appearing to float in the broad atmosphere of the bare canvas. Weight and abstraction below and above an aerial and frivolous quality. The division between the canvases is still clear and the small square functions like the inclusion made in the shaving table of the Regal Star-project, a balance, a kid of fulcrum for the exchange, the see-saw effect enhanced by the long spiralling projection to the left.
On the other hand Bien’s notation is equally to be read as a landscape reference, lightly indicated mountain tops such as one finds in the drawing form Tierra del Fuego made on 24 January 1985 (No. 29 with title Sehr einsame Spitze, Monte Negro). The preponderance of that motif for Bien – one finds it from a surviving pyramidal sculpture of 1972, one of the earliest surviving works – suggests that one may read the canvas as a continuing engagement with the motif, much as Cezanne’s constant return to Monte Sainte Victoire. If anything it is emblematic of the loneliness of his search and journey as an artist.
The square also returns to Bien’s coat with the embroidered square on the back _[ 1982-011 ], the site of vulnerability within the non-visible back. The notion of the square as canvas and pedestal is also of significance in his work. The interpretation allows one read the gesture of the square beyond territorial permission and exposes the gesture to the architectural framing which is the artist’s way of indicating open space, the search in the dialogue, the mutual exchange where in equality they seek for what is not known to either of them. The apparent antagonism of the blue and green, as color contrasts is a studious risk which the choice of monochromes entails, and which both artists minimise by the freeing of much of the canvas surface from any marks.
The head from Africa [_1994-016 ] is a real referent in the work of Bien. From Zaire, the head was handed to Bien wrapped in an elephant ear, baked clay fired and removed from some ensemble, the head itself is still in the studio at Lauriergracht. We see the appearance of the head in two works, once form Virgil and once from Bien. He had the head cast in bronze when in Berlin, and indeed Grotfeldt’s direct response to seeing this head can be shown from sculptural works of his in 1995 during the Delphi Exhibition. The original sculpture showing developed adult features can be held easily in the hand of either artist and the issue of scale seems to have been fascinating to both of them. What is true in the color theory especially the in-between zone of the grey, and the apposition of light and dark is being explored throughout.
The head [_1994-018 ] responds to the head already painted by Bien. The division in this case is more even, the canvases more fully occupied. Again a memory from South America, Bolivia. The motif is a kind of architectural treatment of his anvil theme, for him a reference to the merciless flatness of the polders. From a sculptural point of view the anvil had the significance of body but also as flat surface. For Bien the problem of painting and sculpture meet in the anvil.
The treatment of Grotfeldt suggests a larger space than the size of the canvas. The head is neither shown frontally or in profile, and not completely. Unlike with Bien’s graphic outline treatment, Grotfeldt has placed the head mysteriously at the corner. There is a hesitation towards the non-western, the problem to be overcome was not to use a kind of ‘exotic’ resource and deal with it in a pictorial way. In some sense the head is hidden in the indigo which he uses to paint it. The clearer exposure of Bien is responded to by a resonant yet more secret suggestion; that the canvas itself is only a fragment from a greater indescribable whole.
For Bien the works are stunningly autobiographical, for Grotfeldt the autobiographical is the process of encounter. Bien says he can read the biography of Grotfeldt there. Moving into darkness can provoke the simplest fears, like the fear some small children have of sleeping in an unlit room. The darkness which Grotfeldt is working from is clear in this canvas. The head is itself caught in a meshed darkness which is also a horror vacui.
One can see the development of this in the series Thirteen Steps to Satan, where the intense struggle from the darkness is systematised in a counter-tropic way by systematising the elements of superstition and fear which are related to the theology of darkness and the issue of fortune and fate. In that sense Grotfeldt is concerned with a freedom which has to find its way in an apophatic fashion. The appearance of the seat from the Death Room Interior, (which also appeared in the Pay Dirt block) was also related to the more recently remembered sculptural situation of the ritual Inca stones and the memory of the midden in Tierra del Fuego. As much altar as sacrifice site, the seat on the top of the mountain – with space for only one person – produced an impression of a kind of isolated theatre for meditation on invisible events: a place of high tension and a sacred space.
From earlier work by Grotfeldt there is a definite evidence of interest in the darker color ranges. Later he could write, “As to the issue of black, I am in agreement with Goethe who said all color exists also in darkness. As the transmitter, it is my role to release the spectrum, not in a literal sense but on the conceptual plane.“
In number 5 [_1994-017 ] the curious Bien drawing is the preliminary idea for the development for the Geschiebe, the concept of the glacial ‘load’ being pushed. This is the process which Bien describes as being on the move, the pushing towards the future. This dynamic process circles again the pedestal problem back to another arrangement.
The sledge going through a mountain, is wittily and brilliantly responded to by Grotfeldt, not in terms of an anecdote but that of the schlemiel figure, a kind of acrobat on the ground with indicated vertebrae, both balancing on a foot the upper canvas, and mirroring in the scissors shape of the legs parallel traces created by the outlined hills.
The role of the Geschiebe is the Zukunftsarbeit for Bien, it can be traced back to his time in Tasmania, where coming across a tin miner, a kind of traditional frontier settler, Mr King, who worked with his body, and an English engineer who used a chair and his invention to do the equivalent work of ten men, the tracks of the escalator may have been the prime source for the temporal organisation of the rolled out scroll-like pedestal which became the new dynamic of the folded scroll, or the sledge. This drawing is important for the 3 sculptural works Geschiebe I, II and III. Of course it is also possible to resituate the idea in the work on his ‘Egyptian’ furnitures of the early 1980´s [_1982-004, 1984-011 ].
Number 6 with the funnel shape[_1994-019 ], moves away from the square and circle and introduces a pyramidal energy. The exchange on the canvas has become looser and, in the case of Grotfeldt, there is a greater movement towards the territory of Bien. Bien wishes to suggest the energy field that is directed by a mineral shape which ‘breathes’. As in Brancusi’s treatment of the cube there is much more activity and a higher level of dynamic than is imagined. A trip funnel motif under a sledge shape can be seen in the work with Semah [_1994-031 ], and in the Malaria Block the funnel is related to the mammary glands and the sucking figures. For Bien there is a movement away from the terse monochrome. Grotfeldt has occupied the position more frontally with a figure and a slight lightening of the palette. The most obvious source for the Bien painting is the block called Green Cards [_1992-046 ], painted shortly after the Malaria Block. They are busy with color and a have the funnel as the dominant shape, motif and symbol. For Grotfeldt, the figure is a kind of negative Narcissus that raises a question about isolation and rejection. While the green warms the series, the indigo is relatively cold.
The work which was executed in Lauriergracht in Bien’s studio was seen by both artists as a start. There had been no expectation except the decision that both artists expressis verbis wanted to continue. This initial exchange was described by Bien as a sharing of common sense and an openness. The work had good will.
With the second series there is one dramatic shift. Both artists agree to a common medium; they choose carbon. Grotfeldt has written that in the choice of carbon “the resulting image is dictated by the geology of the particular carbon being used. Tasmanian coal produces completely different color than that from Appalachia. For me the carbon expresses all that is ‘universe’ as I understand it.“ The introduction of river clay was partly to eliminate the structure of the canvas. Both artists agreed that they didn’t want an ‘industrial’ underground, perhaps for the same reason that Mondriaan ended up with three primary colors: a theory of purity. They wanted to create an underground which would give the coal the greatest depth and color to allow it maximum expressivity. The essential essence was for the black to appear, not to be influenced, as in Soutine, by the image, or in Malevich, by the theosophical idea, rather, they wanted a pure speech for black and white.
The artists believed that the preconditions were perfect. They had even extensively studied the Rothkos in Houston.
The coal burger [_1995-089 ] by Bien was viewed as an exercise in how to determine an iconic element of American culture without specifically using a brand name, the socialising of food, and the chaining of it to industrial mass production, techniques Henry Ford had discovered from looking at abattoir production and transposing them to his car factory. _A process now familiar as the production line.
Grotfeldt makes it clear that the issue of the coal is one of time. Bien has brought his understanding of the ‘sensible flow’, which is so clear in the funnel motif, so that in Bien’s understanding the dynamic creates the forms and vice versa. The point is didactic but takes one to a clear understanding of Bien’s thinking if the funnel is first understood within the social context like watching a bartender exchanging liquid from one receptacle to another. Studying the Brancusi column Bien is fascinated by he principal of change that he observes within the repetition. It is the search of the Regal Star, and again, in the second series with Grotfeldt both artists instinctively exchange their own sense of pictorial vocabulary. The first series may be seen as a limbering up, a kind of prolepsis for what follows. This is not to create a ‘narrative’ of exchange, simply to suggest that Bien moves from his motival registration and Grotfeldt away from the human figure and the inchoateness of the canvas, to another kind of relation between surface and depth, the idealised botanics which clear the embedded roots and places them in an atmosphere of light.
Speaking of the choice of material Grotfeldt talks of coal as “the history of all living things which precede me, and ultimately my own final destination“. Bien too is fascinated by the hidden reversals in decay, such as one might find with a skeleton preserved in a bog, where the tanned envelope of skin functions in the way the mineralising of the skeleton did in life, as support for the body. It is this kind of time-space continuum that Bien explores in the architectural. For both artists their own dynamic dialogue literally leaps forward in the moment of exchanged common material.
In order to use the coal as a medium it was necessary to grind it and add liquid to make it flow that often produced happy accidents. There are sometimes mottled effects, and the dark-light continuum also plays against the priming that was of river clay.
In the bell-shaped motif that has the plan of a Byzantine church, derived from a drawing of Schönenborn, one can note Bien’s move to an architectural expression. The spatiality is also further intensified by the play of space and counter-space in the decision of the three-sided frame. The brushstroke with the carbon had the mysterious property of unfolding a compression, so that the deep spatial quality, unlike with pigment, oriented the artists to the problem of space. One can say that there is a triple reference, a move away from the image,_ a move to the inner process of the material, a response to the black and the white.
There may be an old idea within art historical writing, the notion of the plant as the source for architecture, Gottfried Semper, or for example, the importance of the acanthus spinosus or the lotus as studied by Alois Riegl (Stilfragen).
In a series of small drawings from Grotfeldt done on a paper with mathematical equations, in another, we see the drawing of a war-club shaped human figure in dark blue indigo. The drawing Balancing Act, or on the reverse of the sheet Bloated World from 1995, shows how close the artists were in their shared fascination with shapes.
In his early work one sees very little interest in ‘botanics’ per se. With the use of the coal Grotfeldt went into the botanical. It may be that working with the carbon also made it difficult to create hard linear forms, and that a soft emergence within gravitation, or the liberation of the plant, away from gravitation, where the plant was no longer directed, and allowed the plant move to the environment into light, and frees the imagination into the floating world, out of the darkness. If the journey of life in the formula of Plotinus is from the alone to the alone, Grotfeldt also insists that it is from the dark to the dark, from the womb to the grave. Before his work with Bien Grotfeldt’s use of black is more tightly woven, compact, a dense suggestion of materiality which creates its own gravitational field, with the working together, this changes slowly but surely, away from the self-enclosed and hermetic to a kind of transparency, relatively speaking, in which highly sensitive visual registration of form and tonality is directed to a non-specific and diffuse notion of pervading light, light within darkness, a pushing out of the warp of the black the tiny particles of light that are its most mysterious secret, and in the light the darkness which prevents its move to total transparency which would make it impossible and invisible.
In the series after Houston, which took place in Amsterdam, the artists continued using the coal from Dorsten. In the interval between their second and third meeting, Grotfeldt used another coal from Illinois and one sees that the color is browner and warmer. Meanwhile Bien had been working with Semah, and the impact of this exchange can be also traced in the work with Grotfeldt. Grotfeldt worked at the time exclusively on paper, partly because of an energy sapping illness which had been recently diagnosed, and as work on the canvas was considered too tiring, Grotfeldt’s daily occupation as a housepainter was becoming increasingly oppressive. His decision, then, to exclusively concentrate on his work as an artist was also an important life decision with extraordinarily rich consequences.
The third series has more variation in the size of canvases and the formatting of the double work. In this series Bien is continually setting up ideas in a clear and rational way. The artists had discussed the use of the Dorsten coal and the relation of Virgil’s plant drawings as ‘footnotes’ to the Death Room Interior, it was the counterspace pictorially realised by Grotfeldt. However, the method of notation should not be considered in the old hierarchical organisation of the typography of the page, with the notion of major and minor textuality. Instead, the ‘footnote’ is a physical conception in which the discourse has a possibility of push and pull of balance and moment. This differs from the published ideas _of Semah on the concept, but seems closer to what both Bien and Grotfeldt, on their own account, had agreed.
Grotfeldt had brought in the consideration of temperature in the series, human temperature, not just the abstract idea of temporality, but the warmth of living. Bien had primed the canvas with the river clay which can be taken as the foundation gesture. Mathijs Gomperts, Waldo Bien’s son, made a small painting in the studio at Lauriergracht 123 in _June 1996 which is also the date of the 3rd series. The two week session in early summer in Amsterdam also indicated that the fear of ‘production’ had left. They have doubled the ammount of work from the period of the first exchange. The time for painting on the basis _of diary notes etc. seems to have been 9 days.
There is a ‘triple’ canvas and the appearance for the first time of a black canvas. Grotfeldt’s moves into a freer and wilder expression while Bien accumulates further references to the layer, strata, and double funnel, the cross-section of a flint stone and a double funnel laid over cross bones. But Bien has also included his own conception of the botanical, and indeed in a remarkable moment, one double canvas make it almost impossible to determine the hand, except that Bien moves against Grotfeldt’s opening of the flower and closes the artichoke.
We can see the return of Grotfeldt to the series of indigo blue on the formula filled pages of 1992, like Marquesan war clubs the head or skull placed on a spiralled vertebrae, botanics and bone melded in the soft atmospheric of the warm ground [_1996-008 ] and the black modified, in the picture with the face as (mask-head) below from Bien with white outlines on the black below. Bien here uses the river clay to paint the outline. Under this there is lightly indicated counter-portrait. The almost perfect symbiosis between the artists is nowhere more evident than in this series. In one of the works Bien has intervened with a curious addition, a date projected for the future, 14 June 2084, indicating that there was not only open space, but also open chronology.
Series 4 painted in Houston in 1996, has as its immediate background a trip to Mexico by the artists, and the dialogue changes in its intensity and introduces new elements through the introduction of a white and yellow river clay as priming agent. In the work with the light spiralling column on the right [_1996-022 ], the movement into space is counteracted by Bien with a succession of uneven horizontal strokes that act as a kind of defensive gesture, a graphic Jiu Jitsu. The energy of the early series has given way to more subtle and mysterious evanescence on the part of Grotfeldt, as if throwing a feint against the more dominant graphic action of Bien. The covering of the image by Grotfeldt is also a return to privacy. Grotfeldt has gone towards the danger of the light as transparency and disappearance, he has risked visiblity, matter and gravitation in the encounter, a giving up and emptying that has the atmospheric suggestion of Redon, pace an observation of Walter Hopps who had shown the artists works of Redon in the Menil Collection. The artists also saw a Mondriaan drawing in the collection with flowers in black and white pencil, and was a discovery of the first importance. Hopps remarked that the serendipity was less ‘accidental than it seemed’. Bien had also done an independent series of drawings that had responded to the Thirteen Steps to Satan, this too is part of the absence of speech that is dialogue, implicated in the standing reserve that makes equal speech possible.
Grotfeldt had shown a kind of Manichaean dualism in some of earlier work, and paintings of a ‘religious’ intensity, in the sense of William Blake, an impression heightened by the presence of handwriting on many of the pages. The Thirteen Steps to Satan can be read as a further exploration of mysteries, but with the concrete materiality of medium employed changing the intellectual direction.
The gauge for the colors explosion we see in Series 5 had already been prepared in 4, with the introduction of the warm tone and the bright yellow, Bien had, in Tableaux Africains also mastered the issue of working with the river clay. The movement away from the frame took them off size and boundary. The frame became moved also away from the architectural sense of gate, they were now more in line with the early signature pedestal [_1982-003 ], and more an analogy to the togetherness of the decision of the canvases than an imposition in the form of a strait-jacket, the series even moves away from its own accumulation of meanings, there is an another direction and jettisoning of the danger of the habitual. The introduction of color, the desire for color, was from the side of Grotfeldt. The coal is from Germay, America, Belgium and Tasmania.
One remarkable development is clear from the anthropomorphising of the botanics, _and the appearance of a portrait away from the mask like head and faces. The latter is the appearance of a portrait of Joseph Beuys by Bien, in a frame of Nothofagus from Tasmania and in coaldust from America, on the other side Virgil Grotfeldt has used Tasmania coal on blue water color paint, both artists have returned to private concerns, content to be alongside each other, occupying their respective territory.
Bien once commented on the absurdity of the post-modernist obsession with the end of history, of paintings etc., remembering his meetings with Virgil Grotfeldt in Berlin in 1990 and looking back on their remarkable adventure together, which has recently culminated in work around the architectural on large account books, the whole issue of the frames as gate-ways, and indeed in one final account book series of 1997 remembering the Brandenburg Gates, at which neither history or painting was concluded.