Between Cultures – Art

PRESS & TEXTS OF ART WRITERS

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PETER DITTMAR: WINDOWS BETWEEN CULTURES

Text by Dr. Elisabeth Wagner published for exhibition in Berlin

With Peter Dittmar the KUNSTBÜRO BERLIN presents an artist who left Munich almost thirty years ago for Bali, Brazil, India, Japan, and finally Sydney, where he now lives. He returns regularly to Bali where most of his paintings have originated and which is a continuing source of inspiration for new works. They are evidence of a deep and intimate relationship with a Hindu-Buddhist-imbued philosophy and culture, which he no longer perceives merely as an observer but as a practicing adherent. This finds its expression in his choice of material: Hand-made Indonesian paper shaped into wave-like patterns with a comb and collaged onto wood forms the image support of his paintings. Warping, irregularity, and disruption as well as uneven color application evoke terrestrial and celestial landscapes. Their restrained uncertainty offers expressive calligraphic gestures like in the painting in four parts Spring (2004), or the surrounding area of an empty center like in the Aida cycle (2000-2002). In colour windows since 2007, Dittmar places the geometric forms of square or pyramid into

the center of the painting and color-contrasts them from their background, mobilizing attention for a seemingly deeper inner core.

His paintings could be read as Mandalas in which the specific arrangement of colors and forms aim directly at the unconscious.

Dittmar calls his recent works in square format simply colour windows: Windows that mark an open section providing a view of an exterior, or conversely a glance into something interior. The ambivalent character of the window clearly indicates that there cannot be an immediate, direct access to the foreign culture itself, particularly through Peter Dittmar’s specific perception of this culture.  Each glance provides a possible view and is at the same time also an act of possession.  The medial aspect of the window enters the awareness. With the use of the square, an absolute archetypical form, Dittmar evokes a long cultural-historical tradition. Unlike the circle, a representation of the sky, divine perfection, and eternity, the square is connected with human planning and order – its consistent limitation conveys continuity and stability. The square repeatedly emerges in Dittmar’s colour windows and pyramids: not only as a basis for the format of the image, but in the center as a pyramidal construction whose reductive lines suggest spatiality. The mode shift effect provoked through the perspective constellation prevents the eye from determining whether the square gives way to the interior or moves toward the viewer, the ambivalent character of the window thus being shown as an optical effect.

The rationally perceived geometric calculation and limitation in Dittmar’s paintings are balanced [juxtaposed] by the sensuously-subjective properties of the colors and their de-limiting quality, even if the artist entitles one painting Schwarz-Rot-Gold (CW No. Hi/2008-10), connoting “Germanness”. Whatever this may mean: the center here surrounded by black is unexpectedly open and, following the calligraphic line, surprisingly agile and dynamic. In his paintings, both the unpredictable and spontaneous and the orderly and controlled are always simultaneously present. The irregular structures, the contrasting colors, and the dance-like gestures of the calligraphy, defy and elude, rendering it incalculable.

The viewer experiences at the same time both a foothold and a detachment:  A view into a far distance, which at the same time may be a view into our most inner existence/nature.

Text by Dr. Elisabeth Wagner, Coordinator of the intertnational Mosse-Lectures at Humboldt University Berlin, she published important essays about Anselm Kiefer, Gerhard Richter, Olafur Eliason, Ruprecht Geiger, Johannes Gecelli, Ben WIllikens, Peter Dittmar and others.

Translation by Dr. Uta Hoffmann

 

 

With Peter Dittmar the KUNSTBÜRO BERLIN presents an artist who left Munich almost thirty years ago for Bali, Brazil, India, Japan, and finally Sydney, where he now lives. He returns regularly to Bali where most of his paintings have originated and which is a continuing source of inspiration for new works. They are evidence of a deep and intimate relationship with a Hindu-Buddhist-imbued philosophy and culture, which he no longer perceives merely as an observer but as a practicing adherent. This finds its expression in his choice of material: Hand-made Indonesian paper shaped into wave-like patterns with a comb and collaged onto wood forms the image support of his paintings. Warping, irregularity, and disruption as well as uneven color application evoke terrestrial and celestial landscapes. Their restrained uncertainty offers expressive calligraphic gestures like in the painting in four parts Spring (2004), or the surrounding area of an empty center like in the Aida cycle (2000-2002). In colour windows since 2007, Dittmar places the geometric forms of square or pyramid into

the center of the painting and color-contrasts them from their background, mobilizing attention for a seemingly deeper inner core.

His paintings could be read as Mandalas in which the specific arrangement of colors and forms aim directly at the unconscious.

Dittmar calls his recent works in square format simply colour windows: Windows that mark an open section providing a view of an exterior, or conversely a glance into something interior. The ambivalent character of the window clearly indicates that there cannot be an immediate, direct access to the foreign culture itself, particularly through Peter Dittmar’s specific perception of this culture.  Each glance provides a possible view and is at the same time also an act of possession.  The medial aspect of the window enters the awareness. With the use of the square, an absolute archetypical form, Dittmar evokes a long cultural-historical tradition. Unlike the circle, a representation of the sky, divine perfection, and eternity, the square is connected with human planning and order – its consistent limitation conveys continuity and stability. The square repeatedly emerges in Dittmar’s colour windows and pyramids: not only as a basis for the format of the image, but in the center as a pyramidal construction whose reductive lines suggest spatiality. The mode shift effect provoked through the perspective constellation prevents the eye from determining whether the square gives way to the interior or moves toward the viewer, the ambivalent character of the window thus being shown as an optical effect.

The rationally perceived geometric calculation and limitation in Dittmar’s paintings are balanced [juxtaposed] by the sensuously-subjective properties of the colors and their de-limiting quality, even if the artist entitles one painting Schwarz-Rot-Gold (CW No. Hi/2008-10), connoting “Germanness”. Whatever this may mean: the center here surrounded by black is unexpectedly open and, following the calligraphic line, surprisingly agile and dynamic. In his paintings, both the unpredictable and spontaneous and the orderly and controlled are always simultaneously present. The irregular structures, the contrasting colors, and the dance-like gestures of the calligraphy, defy and elude, rendering it incalculable.

The viewer experiences at the same time both a foothold and a detachment:  A view into a far distance, which at the same time may be a view into our most inner existence/nature.

Text by Dr. Elisabeth Wagner, Coordinator of the intertnational Mosse-Lectures at Humboldt University Berlin, she published important essays about Anselm Kiefer, Gerhard Richter, Olafur Eliason, Ruprecht Geiger, Johannes Gecelli, Ben WIllikens, Peter Dittmar and others.

Translation by Dr. Uta Hoffmann

 

 

 

Article in JAKARTA GLOBE NEWSPAPER  for solo exhibition at TONY RAKA GALLERY

Finding the Spirit of Zen in Windows and Calligraphy

By Richard Horstman

Perhaps the greatest challenge a contemporary artist faces is how to be creative, yet remain innovative too.

By observing an artist’s body of work, over time the evolution of techniques, expressive styles, the exploration of media and the investigation and development of the artist’s ideas can be easily seen.

However, when an artist, like in the case of Peter Dittmar, chooses to express himself within a very rigid format, innovation can become problematic.

Dittmar’s latest exhibition, “New Color Windows and Calligraphy” is currently on display at the Tonyraka Art Gallery in Ubud. The creative theme of the exhibition is his five-year spiritual quest after practicing Zen, calligraphy and abstraction for more than 17 years.

“I have set the boundaries of my ‘Color Windows’ within the tight format of the square. I then have had to research and discover what it is that I can accomplish within this format,” Dittmar said.

“In the basic formula of the composition I place a square within squares because I want the observer to be led to the center of [the] painting and to eventually arrive at a place of their own inner contemplation. The idea is to give the viewer a taste of tranquility and stillness, similar to the Buddhist expression of the mandala.

“My ‘Color Windows’ I see as a metaphor, a window giving sight and pointing towards the unknown and the non-expressible. The center is an empty space which is symbolic of the void.”

Dittmar adopts the core aesthetic elements that were the fundamentals in the early 20th century to the pioneers of the abstraction movement, who were captivated by mystical and philosophical ideologies. The crux of abstract/non-representational art is the exploration of the essence that exists beyond the object. His paintings are examinations of color, geometric abstract minimalism, texture and calligraphy.

“I studied Western traditions and techniques of painting, however I see myself as a contemporary artist who is influenced by the Eastern philosophy of Zen and its related theory of aesthetics,” he said.

“My inspiration comes from my spiritual journey and my attraction to Eastern wisdoms that state that via personal introspection clues are revealed to the mysterious nature of the universe.”

Born in Munich, Germany, in 1945, Dittmar divides his time living and working between Bali, Sydney and Munich. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich and was an art teacher in public schools, colleges and universities in Munich, Jakarta and Para, Brazil, collectively for 14 years. He first came to Bali in 1982 and after many years of exploring the landscape genre he created his first abstract painting in Bali.

“Last year I felt the desire to break free from my format, and this has led to investigations into the size and shape of the works utilizing both the rectangle and the wave,” Dittmar said.

Dittmar has previously explored the shape of the circle in a series of paintings in the Japanese Zen tradition of the enso, the symbol of the universe and universal harmony.

His current exhibition includes three round works in which he has deliberately intensified the surface textures and experimented with the focal points.

“Electronic Color Window #1, 2012 Bali” is perhaps Dittmar’s most experimental work to date. Here, he enhances the contemplative qualities of his format by including an electric light positioned at the back of the principal central window.

“In my search to be more innovative I discovered that light would be a very interesting element to introduce into my composition,” he said.

Dittmar has fixed a three-dimensional metal component into the focal square with a light mounted behind. The pulsing and alternating light changes the color of the painting and intensifies its alluring qualities.

Several of Dittmar’s works feature calligraphy that expresses raw power captured in the moment via the rapid delivery of the brush stroke. The whirling presence of the calligraphy, at times surrounding the inner window, presents another contrast within the dynamics of the paintings.

He also presents older works in this exhibition that date back to 1995 to allow a glimpse at his artistic development.

Article in JAKARTA POST on Thursday, September 02, 2010 

Western aesthetics meet eastern symbolism

By Wayan Sunarta

German-born painter Peter Dittmar combines western esthetic skills with eastern symbolism in his ongoing solo exhibition New Colour Windows.

Colour Window No. HHH, by Peter Dittmar. JP/I Wayan Sunarta

The displayed works are a vivid testament of the artist’s incessant journey to reach the state of emptiness so revered by eastern philosophy.

Held at Tony Raka, a gallery in Mas, Ubud, known to support contemporary and avant-garde art, the one month-long exhibition is curated by noted art critic Jean Couteau.

Dittmar’s works are the visual equivalence of haiku, the short and spontaneous traditional Japanese poetry, a revealing condensation of the true nature of experience.

Haiku is commonly associated with reclusive poets mesmerized by the solitary serenity of Mother Nature.

His works offer such meditative tranquility with geometric shapes, such as circles, squares, and rectangles placed in beautiful composition upon layers of colors. He used rice paper, common in Chinese religious rituals, as the primary medium.

The squares and rectangles frame the colors and guide the spectators to look at what Dittmar has to offer. To some extent, the squares and rectangles are the windows of colors, thus, hence the title of the exhibition.

The arrangement of the geometric shapes brings to mind the Mandala, sacred geometric shapes and spatial structure used in esoteric Hinduism and Buddhism teachings at the center of a meditator’s attention. In several works, Dittmar played with shades and hues to create the illusion of depth and space. In other works, he worked his brushes in uninhibited strokes and powerful splashes, creating a visual calligraphy.

Dittmar is no stranger to eastern philosophy and spirituality. He had travelled to India to quench his thirst at the springs of Hinduism and Buddhism cosmology.

He studied and practiced Zen Buddhism, a school of thought that often defies logic and places the emphasis on direct and spontaneous enlightenment.

On a spiritual quest: Peter Dittmar is a respected artist in his country of origin, Germany, and in Australia as well as in Bali, where he spends half of his time since

1982.

Dittmar also immersed himself in the study of Japanese and Chinese calligraphy, searching the secret behind conveying messages with the least strokes.

Born in 1945 in Munich, Dittmar was educated at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts. Later on, he juggled his time between creating art works and teaching arts. His teaching stints included Jakarta Institute of Art (IKJ) and Federal University of Para in Belem, Brazil.

He has participated in joint and solo exhibitions at numerous cities across the world, including New York, Tokyo, Basel, Berlin, Hong Kong and Melbourne, and has lived in Bali since 1982.

Dittmar said most of his works were about spiritual soul-searching and contemplation on the nature of cosmos. He believes the cosmos was constructed by two different elements that complement and harmonize each other, be it nature-culture; male-female; the Balinese’ Rwa Bhinneda and the Chinese Yin-Yang.

The exhibition’s curator, Jean Couteau, said the displayed works were quite different from Dittmar’s earlier paintings. The latest works show a higher level of control and order as well as minimum color processing.

“Dittmar has continuously explored the essence of colors and space, to find a totally different form of abstraction. Surely, that exploration is closely connected to his spiritual search,” he said.

Wayan Sunarta, Bali

Text in JAKARTA POST

for solo show at TONY RAKA GALLERY in BALI 2010

  ‘NEW COLOR WINDOWS’ – PETER DITTMAR.

By Richard Horstman

Contemporary artist Peter Dittmar’s ‘New Color Windows’ feature in a solo exhibition at the Tony Raka Gallery in Mas, Ubud, and Bali from The 17th August until the 17th September 2010.  The creative theme of ‘Color Windows’ has been Dittmar’s spiritual quest for about 3 years after practicing Zen – Calligraphy – Abstraction for more than 15 years.

“My ‘Color Windows’ I see as a metaphor, a window giving sight and pointing towards the unknown and the non expressible. The center is an empty space, which is symbolic of the void.

The paintings are contemporary objects supporting contemplation in the Buddhist tradition of the mandala.”

Born in Munich, Germany in 1945, Dittmar divides his time living and working between Sayan Bali, Sydney Australia and less frequently in Munich. He was educated at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich (1970 – 76) and was an art teacher in public schools, colleges and universities in Munich, Jakarta and Para, Brazil, collectively for 14 years.

Dittmar first resided to Bali in 1982. His initial vista from the ridge looking down over the Ayung River in Sayan, Ubud was his illusion of tropical paradise. After many years of exploring the landscape genre he created his first abstract painting in Bali.

Within the ‘New Color Windows’ Dittmar utilizes the core aesthetic elements that were the fundamentals to the pioneers of the abstraction movement. Theosophy (the belief that creation expands geometrically from a single point) was a principal idea of reference to the Masters of the abstraction movement (Kadinsky and Mondrain) in the early 20th century. They were captivated by mystical and philosophical ideologies.  Abstract/non representational art at its nucleus is the exploration into the essence, which exists beyond the object, the spiritual voyage into the origins of all that is.

These paintings are studies of color, geometric abstract minimalism, texture and calligraphy. Dittmar creates a harmonic structure by deliberately arranging the elements in a way that appeals to the senses.  The geometrical code Dittmar adopts in these works is governed by the mathematical ratio known as the ‘Golden Mean’. The ‘Golden Mean’ governs the 3 dimensional proportions of our earth plane.  It was used in the design of sacred buildings in ancient and renaissance architecture (the Great Pyramid of Giza and St.Peter’s Basillica in Rome) to produce spiritual energy that facilitated connectivity with interplanetary dimensional realms.  We live in the 3rd dimension, or the ‘Plane of Manifestation’. The ‘Golden Mean’ is an intra-dimensional doorway though which matter emerges into manifest 3-D reality.    Dittmar recreates ‘the exact movement of creation in the expansion process’ within in the confines of his ‘Color Windows’.

Eckhardt Tolle understands that the quietness discovered within the void is a unique place. “Stillness is where creativity and solutions to problems are found.”   The origins of the concept of the void employed by Dittmar can be traced to the Atomists, a group of natural theorists dating back to the era of the ancient Greek philosophers. Their primary subject was the composition and order of the physical universe. According to the Atomists, nature exists only of two things, atoms and the void that surrounds them. Modern physicists have proven this theory true.

“In Bali I became interested in the motion and the movement of the brush rather than the depiction of objects. This became a fascination within my abstract process.  The dynamics of motion, for all is in motion and in a constant state of change and my intense interest in Zen Buddhism lead me to express the intensity of this very moment of creation.”

Dittmar’s calligraphy expresses raw power captured in the moment via the rapid delivery of the brush stroke.  The whirling presence of the calligraphy, at times surrounding the inner window presents another contrast within the dynamics of the paintings.  A powerful mark of motion positioned alongside and in direct opposition to the stillness of the void. The controlled and confined juxtaposed against the unlimited.

This exhibition features 24 mixed media works on teak board, all windows are 100 cm x 100cm or 50cm x 100cm. They are superbly displayed and resonate within the modern architecture of the Tony Raka Gallery. The combinations of paintings hung on the wall, singularly or in groups of 3, 4 or 6 adds to optical drama. This series of the ‘New Color Windows’ reveals the evolution of aesthetic accents as Dittmar has chosen to express him self in his boldest colors to date.  The coloration system expressed creates a fascinating illusion; the warm colors advancing towards us while the darker colors recede into the distance. Colors in opposition create a depth of field that brings the focal point of the inner window to our attention. The natural dynamic of motion is abruptly haltered as we absorb the essence of the stillness within the void.  The fibrous texture is also an important feature of the works, the rendered patterns suggest motion, and the valleys and peaks of the texture at times allow Dittmar to express beautifully contrasting coloration. The use of the ‘Golden Mean’ ratio along with the depth of field created adds to the 3 dimensional visual experiences.  These works feature rich reds and blues juxtaposed with one another, gold, green, yellow and black. The calligraphy is in red or black and is symbolic for the female and male energy. “Color is the place where our heart and the universe meet.”  Dittmar believes that the expression of color is indeed an essential ingredient in existence.

 

Asian esoteric knowledge fuses with the measured structural and visual precision of the artist’s European heritage; ‘Color Windows’ represent the meeting of eastern and western cultures.

Dittmar is an international artist who has exhibited in-group and solo shows in over 15 different countries.  His work appears in numerous public and private collections around the world. ‘New Color Windows’ are the potent culmination of his artistic journey of nearly 45 years. Dittmar’s vehicles of contemplation achieve an aesthetic simplicity that reflects nature’s divine signature of intelligence.

It is true to state that art mimics life, however life may be perceived as partly fiction, partly truth. At times certain aspects of life may never be fully understood, however they can definitely be experienced.

Text by Richard Horstman

 DITTMAR’S “COLOUR WINDOWS” ON THE SPIRITUAL QUEST

AT  GAYA ART SPACE IN UBUD SAYAN IN  AUGUST  2009

by Dr. Jean Couteau

When speaking of abstraction in art, what most often comes to mind is the idea of visual language reduced to its core aesthetic elements, of a focus on “form” for its own sake, without the encumbrance of a narrative located beyond the canvas. This is by large true. But the lack of a narrative does not necessarily mean the absence of a message. The great pioneers of abstraction of the early 20th century were enthralled by philosophical and mystical concerns. Theosophy, which sees creation as expanding geometrically from a single point, was a paramount reference to artists such as Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Malevitch. Kandinsky, in a little book he published in 1910, “The Spiritual in Art”,(“Das Geistige in der Kunst”) proclaimed the object of his art to be the spiritual. Malevitch and Mondrian saw their geometric abstraction as the expression of cosmic dualities. Abstraction, to those artists, was the visual formulation of a spiritual quest.

It is in this same vein that Peter Dittmar’s exhibition: “PETER DITTMAR –“COLOUR WINDOWS COMBINATIONS” at GAYA ART SPACE from 31. July March till 30thAugust 2009, should be apprehended. Although the core of his inspiration is not Theosophy proper, but Theosophy’s principal source: Hindu-Buddhist cosmology, with which the artist came into contact in the 1970s. Dittmar went to India for spiritual quest, being part of the current of Eastern ideas then entering the minds of Western youth in revolt, to give a lasting oriental turn to their spiritual quests.

 

In Hindu- Buddhist cosmology, the world or macrocosm is in perpetual motion, and man, as a microcosmic component of this world, can achieve release only by adapting his ethics and deeds to its cosmic rhythm. Art is construed as one of the means to do so. Two paths have traditionally been followed in this regard. One is to adapt expression to the cosmos, understood as an “expanding Whole”; the other is to reduce it to “a synthetic oneness-cum-void”. The first path, that of India and Southeast Asia, involves the translation of cosmic experience into a multiplicity of gods and symbols, and the second, that of Japanese Zen Buddhism and other similar Chinese and Korean traditions, involves its translation in a minimalist manner.

Peter Dittmar’s spiritual leanings took him to practice ZEN Buddhism with its source in Japan, but it is in Bali – with its abundance of symbols – that he eventually settled, to pursue, in a Zen inspired way, his quest for Oneness-cum-Void.

Two main series of artworks mark two distinct stages, each in different visual language, of this same Zen-like quest. For sixteen years, Dittmar has produced calligraphic paintings, epitomized by a strong, swift thrust of the brush that withers into a tail. Capturing the abstract essence of the synthetic line that has long characterized Far Eastern calligraphy and painting, they aim to visualize cosmic motion in its expanding and shrinking phases.

Was it because he felt he had said all he had to say in this mode, or for some other reason? The fact is that Peter Dittmar’s new works look totally different from their calligraphic predecessors. In his most recent series, spontaneous expression has been replaced by regularity and control; scarcity of color by an exploration of tone. As if the artist had decided to explore an altogether different kind of abstraction. Yet, a closer look reveals continuity: the artist’s new works are part of the same general endeavor as his old ones, but they arrive at a different phase of the quest, corresponding to a slightly different philosophical purpose. He still aims to evoke concentration and synthesis, but now achieves this through the stillness of carefully tonal graduated colours, enclosed in regular geometric squares, instead of through the “thrust and stop” energy that characterized the calligraphic line in his previous works. This stylistic shift corresponds to a new philosophical accent. Whereas his previous calligraphic works symbolized the cosmic energetic process as it surges and then comes to rest, his current abstract geometric paintings symbolize the encounter of the beholder with the absolute stillness of the Void. In other words, the two successive styles can be construed in terms of the dichotomies of Motion and Stillness, Expansion and Shrinkage, Multiplicity and Oneness, Essence and Void at the root of Hindu-Buddhist thought.

 

Apart from Stillness and Void, the artist’s squares, which he calls “COLOUR WINDOWS” also consciously, evoke Hindu-Buddhist cosmological symbols. Hung individually, with their central points, or in groups of four, they conjure up the notion of the Mandala. As diptychs, they call to mind the idea of cosmic dualism and complementarity of opposites, and as triptychs, the same idea with its middle intermediary point included. In all these works, the viewer is led to the central focal point through a very cultured application of geometric proportions (Peter Dittmar says he following the “Golden Section”, also known as “Divine Proportions”) combined with a sophisticated play of tonal coloration that takes us ever deeper into the ultimate Stillness/Void. That is the whole point of these works – which can be best understood as vehicles for meditation.

The simplicity Peter Dittmar achieves here is more complex than it appears. It sums up – and hides – an encyclopedic accumulation of knowledge and spiritual endeavor that places the artist in league, as their student, with not only the great abstract painters mentioned above, but also Schopenhauer, the Bauhaus theoreticians, Zen Buddhist masters, Hindu-Buddhist cosmologists, and many others. His simplicity is an achieved form of learning and meditation.

Peter Dittmar, a respected artist in his country of origin, Germany, and in Australia as well as in Bali, where he spends half of his time since 1982, shows us that abstraction is indeed alive and well. Nourished by the sources of both Eastern cosmic philosophy and Western knowledge, he enables one to forget both form and colour as we behold, giving us the chance blending ourselves into the Void and Stillness of the cosmic OM.

Dr. Jean Couteau , Bali

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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