It is not always necessary to rely on recognizable and familiar objects to
explore a new world or a different reality. For several centuries, two
major culture-building factors were responsible for the creation of a
subjective reality distanced from the real and ordinary world, and they are
still valid today: religion and art, which often and deliberately interacted
in a fruitful way. Ralph Gelbert’s paintings, especially the larger
formats, offer the chance to discover such imaginary worlds, instantaneously
spellbinding the viewer.
These paintings are not really abstract works of art, because abstract, in
this context would mean a reflection of reality, which, despite all
alienating effects, would depict a “conceptualised” but still understandable
form of reality. Gelbert’s paintings however, are non-representational; they
do not pretend to be images of reality, and they are subject to their own laws.
Although these paintings do not rely on objects, which could distract the
viewer, they contain their own complete and unique world of reality. This
reality is a universe of colours, colour games and colour contrasts, a
universe of geometrical structures, startling textures and surface designs.
At the core of this universe is the artist himself ; in his work he
expresses his artistic approach as well as his individual history and
personal experience.Gelbert’s paintings show worlds, which are
neither pure images of reality, nor purely symbolic. Being a productive
synthesis, they refer to a personal biography, to individual energy and
phases of life transformed into a painting on canvas. The visible marks of
the painting process can be traced back to the creating artist. Throughout
the centuries, cultural history has defined the artist as an alter deus, a
demigod, who creates his own new universe in the process of painting.
Non-representational art is not easy to interpret and is a challenge for the
viewer. In this context, art theory mentions the difference between
“recognizing” and “perceiving” a work of art. Only the latter scenario
applies to the viewer facing non-representational art.
Colours dominate the space of Gelbert’s paintings like an elemental force,
the contrasts sometimes soft and sometimes hard. They interweave, and
finally transform into colour traces which seem to get lost in infinity.
This concept is a logical consequence of his strict abandonment of a
representational approach to art. It is an unreal space that Gelbert
creates, an artificial space defined by different fields and layers of
colour and by basic geometrical structures.
Gelbert’s eruptive worlds of colour show tensions, discrepancies and
contradictions, which constitute an important part of their aesthetic
appeal. These fields of tensions are defined by their extremes; chaos and
cosmos, emotionality and rationality, sensuality and metaphysics. It is the
viewer who brings the art work to completion, although the painting has a
life of its own. What originally appeared to be a chaotic entanglement of
colours, finally turns out to be a universe which follows its own specific
and dynamic rules.
Even though Gelbert’s paintings appear to be ingenious creations, an
uncompromising apotheosis of colour, they did not arise in an artistic
no-man’s-land without art schools and art traditions. The techniques
applied, the painting process and the gestural nature of these works,
combine art traditions such as Informell, Action Painting and the school of
Colour Field Painting. Gelbert reflects the latter in his sometimes strict
field geometry. Gelbert is not only a creative artist, but also a creative
mentor who teaches master classes at the art academies in Bad Reichenhall
and Vienna. Several personal statements and interviews reveal that he deliberately
uses the synthesis of different traditional art schools as an artistic tool for his own works.
His paintings radiate the energy of volcanic eruptions, thus creating new
worlds of colour, which inevitably draw the viewer into their maelstrom. The
magnificent drama of these colour orgies makes a lasting impression on the
mind’s eye of the viewer, where it unfolds its own dynamic force.
Simultaneously, they reflect the individual biography of the artist and his
personal horizon, which were influenced and formed by his journeys to South
Africa, Italy, Ireland and, more recently, South America. This personal
horizon blends with art traditions and Gelbert transforms and transfers them
into a new context, thus continuously underlining their relevance for his
Ralph Gelbert’s Painted Travel Diaries, whether reminiscences of Ireland’s
rolling green hills, or the scorching heat and barrenness of Southern Italy,
transport the viewer to these parts of the world and enables him to
visualise those landscapes, which for the artist, are major sources of
inspiration and starting points for his paintings.