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Oto Rimele

About Berlin Portraits

Portrait Oto Rimele

The project "Berlin Portraits" by the Slovenian artist Oto Rimele makes a group of people visible in a spatial installation.
The cycle consists of 13 portraits of people who lived in Berlin between 1961 and 1989. They are Helmut, Werner, Karl, Liselotte, Ingrid, Monika, Walter, Manfred, Gerhard, Ute, Günter, Peter, and Hans.

Each person is depicted with a specific combination of light and shadow, which is reflected from the thirteen vertical objects onto the wall or onto the surroundings. The portraits emerge as colour reflections, as light and shadow reacting to the changes in daylight or artificial light in the surroundings. They offer the viewer an image that changes slowly but steadily, warning us not to try to piece together the emerging images into a whole. The portraits do not show the external material and physiological characteristics of the person portrayed, but reflect their immaterial image, their ethical dimensions, and their mental and spiritual space. The portraits show the personality of the sitter in a moving image defined by the presence and absence of light produced by a single painting object.

Oto Rimele is aware that each viewer has the impulse to appropriate and combine the real world and the truth depicted into a whole. In this work, the viewer shares his or her own light and shadow with the person portrayed. In this way, the portrayed persons come alive in the here and now. The viewer becomes an active participant in the picture.
Freely adapted from C. G. Jung "He who owns the world but not its image owns only half the world, for his soul is poor and without possessions" (C.G.Jung: The Red Book, W.W.Norton, New York 2009).
Film presentation:

Image: Oto Rimele / Monika (Berlin Portraits, 6/13) / Wood (birch), paint, wax. Graphite / 105 x 7 x 3 cm / 2018

About the artist

Portrait Oto Rimele

Oto Rimele is a painter, an author of spatial-acoustic ambiences, a researcher of mental dimensions of the visual expression and sound. After obtaining an undergraduate degree in 1990 and a master's degree in 1992 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana, he has dedicated most of his creative path to researching the painting communication and the phenomenon of visual expressive possibilities.

His personal experience with the world and reality we live in has led him to achieve a unique painting expression and surpass the classical appearance of paintings. Expanding his painting image first directed him to the field of "painting objects", "combined paintings", painting installations and to activating atypical parts of the painting – its hidden edges and rear parts. Thus, he created unique painting images – "generators of light", where the frontal image gives way to the expressiveness of the "edges" or "rear" parts of the painting.
After finishing his studies, his painting expression was first focused on the painting mimesis of the visible reality, but then the motif was upgraded to a symbolic and non-material meaning. His final motif is light itself and the mental-sublime reality in the sense of exploring the optical and painting reality of the medium of expression. The painter describes his attitude to light in the following words: "...this is why I don't depict light in my paintings, but I directly activate it as the literal sensory presence".
His painting images (painting objects) are three dimensional and allow for the colour to reflect onto the wall, so that the observer can see its non-material reflection in the shape of coloured Light and as a non-material connection. Dr Nataša Smolič describes his "generators of light" as: "The oval paintings give the feeling that somewhere in their essence, invisible to the human eye, there is a light source, which disperses the cleansed and superior light through the reflective whiteness of the wall into the space." Dr Marjeta Ciglenečki recognises his sublime communication with the individual as a bridge that allows the observer to gain an insight: "Many of Mr Rimele's public expositions can be described as simply beautiful if we follow Plotinus's explanation of the Beautiful and if we believe that observing the Beautiful also makes the observer beautiful."

In recent years, Oto Rimele prepared independent expositions presenting his work in New York (Pratt Institute, 2019), Vienna (Korotan Gallery, 2018), Berlin (Galerie B1, Schönberg) and Maribor (the former Minorite church, 2018). In 2016 and 2017 he participated in the joint exposition in the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris. Oto Rimele has been passing on his creative experience as a full professor to the students at the University of Maribor for many years.

Oto Rimele: "I do not paint light, I create it."
June 2018

1. What are the core and fundamental themes and concepts of your art?

«My painting compositions could also be called "generators of light" or "catchers of light". By saying that I am a "painter of the light" I want to emphasize that for my expression and communication with the observer I do not need the material world because my fundamental topic – the painting motif – is the light itself. And the role of the light is to trigger in the observer the ability to activate the non-material. My painting image plastically generates the colour and the light. It could also be said that it reflects the light, or that the colour appears in the form of a shadow.
In an early period of my creating, I approached the painting motif in a veristic manner. The scenes of objects I was painting related to the exposure to light and the light itself in several ways. This period was followed by a gradual discarding of the object painting motif. I discovered that the light itself can be the object of my interest, and I came to understand that the light in the painted image is created by the painter himself. That the light is the consequence of the painter's ability to experience and communicate the light. In my paintings the light changed from something that is merely "observed" to something "present" and "active". Something that enables my painting to transfer the level of communication with the observer to a non-object, abstract level.»

2. How closely do these ideas relate to your creative process and the actual act of creating the art itself?

«The most important moment in my painting career was the discovery of the optical painting procedures that enable my paintings to radiate colour light. In my creative process, I am interested above all in those optical procedures that enable the generation of colour light in my paintings. I do not show to the observer the painted but the real colour light that is created by such a painting composition when it generates the radiation of the non-material part of my painting. In a similar way that Dan Flavin does it. Only that he activates the light using a bulb and electric power, while I generate the colour light and radiation of colour in a natural, somehow sublime way.
If Flavin produces light in an "electrical" way, in my paintings the colour light is produced in an "unplugged" way. In my paintings, the colour light is created as a reflection of an intensive painting colour that appears on the edges or rear parts of the paintings and that the observer cannot see directly when it is reflected on the wall. This is enabled by a special structuring of my paintings that I have been developing intensively in the last two decades, since the mid-90s, and that enables such transformation of the colour material into the colour light.
My procedure of creating a painting composition thus includes a process of dematerialization of the material part of the painting. This could be compared with the procedures of visual communication used by James Turrell. His creative process consists of a "condensation" of the optical experience of light. This process involves materialization of the light, which in my creation moves in the opposite direction. In my creation, I expose the material character of the image to the process of dematerialization and the material becomes the light. Turrell and I are both interested in the light as the essential part of communication with the audience and as the magical feature of the transformation of the material world. However, he is interested in this in a monumental way and I in a more intimate way.»

Oto Rimele

Oto Rimele: Berlin Portraits / Wood, paint, wax. Graphite / composition of 13 portraits / 2018 | larger image view