Vittorio Manalese (2011)

KIND OF BLUE, BROWN AND VIOLET. If the large paintings by Ralf Dereich were music, then it would be probably first-class jazz, the kind you might hear in a good bar. Light without being superficial, improvised, a little odd and yet cathy. Dereich uses a thin, sometimes creamy, and at times almost flowing paint in mixed shades. The paintings seem as if they had been created spontaneously and intuitively out of the moment. Lines and planes refer to what preceded them, lead to new planes, are painted over wet on wet. The paintings stands on its own, it does not represent anything, does not raise any associations to the figurative world. Dereich's painting does not create an illusion, it does not even evoke a mood: it refuses any claim to the literary as well as all iconological definition. The individual steps in the process of creating the work become visible because the brushstrokes remain recognizable, bottom paint layers peek through, or the paint, not completeley mixed, revels its components when applied. On some paintings, the high speed in which they are created becomes a feature, while others he lets dry and only completes them after days by putting down a line in a different color with an easy hand, like a graffiti sprayer might make his tag on a train. Dereich's painting is always present, even though his working materials are the same as those of a painter five hundred years ago: brushes, oil paints, frame, canvas. His reference point is painting itself, just as it was for the American colour field painters fifty years ago. But when faced with his large formats, we sense nothing of the heavy luggage of the New York School, for whom the meditative effect, the sublime was important. Dereich draws freely, confidently, and without an agenda from the formal canon of modernism, and he always leaves a backdoor open for chance. The eye can never rest in these paintings, it remains in permanent movement. Dereich, born in 1976, is simultaneously the actor and the audience when he paints. The energy of creation interests him at least as much as the final painting; just in free-style, he acts and reacts in equal measure and leaves his work so much space that they gain an independent life of their own. 'Quite a bastard', he says about the four-meter-broad canvas in shades of purple, pink, brown, and beige, which in addition to its elegant lines is covered in splotches and splatters of paint. They are traces that exist mainly to evoke the next step. In another painting, the light blue has been painted over with a sallow brown which apparently has annexed all colours. In a third one, pink, green, and light blue together form an iridescently shimmering surface. Dereich uses the brush very lightly, which in turn begins to float quite independently. But perhaps it is just one of those happy moments of consonance which need not sound harmonic at any point, but which extends the sound spectrum at every point. Or how does Dereich put it? 'I am the one who makes this, and the painting makes me.' (Katrin Wittneven)