Georg Elben: Thomas Rentmeister
Catalogue essay from the exhibition “mode of art”, Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, 23.07 – 10.10.1999; in mode of art, (cat.) Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf 1999, German a. English p. 70, translated from German by Pauline Cumbers.
The mirroring surfaces of Thomas Rentmeister’s polyester objects are thin-walled empty bodies with a seductive haptic aesthetic, and therefore possibly prevent the viewer from immediately recognizing them as classical sculptures: The form is built up over a frame, which determines the approximate dimensions, and constantly altered by adding or removing plaster. Finally it is cast, ground and polished. In the course of this working procedure, the form changes, but the colours remain fixed; the works of the past years gleam in discreet tones of vanilla, ivory and chocolate brown. The glowing orange of the new work produced especially for this exhibition departs from this colour scheme, however, so that for the first time the work seems more striking. Because the sculptures absorb their surroundings by mirroring and thus entering into a direct correspondence with them, they are closely linked with space of two levels: through the mirroring on their surface, and through the contact between these closed bodies and the floor; given the absence of separating plinths and the objects’ very materiality, their impact is strongly dependent on the constitution of the floor.
lf for a moment one overlooks its highly polished surface, this extended orange-coloured object is reminiscent in its form of a design studio at an automobile plant. But this is not design. The form has no utility value; it is an autonomous work of art. In its essential unity, the clear thrust of the compact wedge shape contrasts markedly with the green ‘frog’, which, with its two legs and body, calls to mind a comic figure, and occupies an extreme position in Rentmeister’s work to date.
The dimensions of the new sculpture have been calculated to be at eye level with an average fully grown person. When seen from the lower narrow side, foreshortening is visually compensated and gradually flattening curves are reintegrated. It is important that the work be viewed from all sides; the tension of the lines is only perceptible when walking around the sculpture; each point on the colour coating is purposefully linked with the surface, as in the case of a soap bubble. The surface sheen is not only beautiful, but necessary, if its vitality is to be rendered visible in the reflections, in the elegant traces of light. The perfection of the polish, without a single streak – indeed, a smoother finish than in industrial production – makes it seem like a membrane and sometimes, depending on the light, conveys the impression that the material, moving languidly, might just pass into a fluid aggregate state.
© Georg Elben