Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Peter Dreher

Since 1974, the German artist Peter Dreher has made thousands of paintings of the same empty glass.

Under the general title ‘Day by Day good Day’, the paintings fall into two series, day and night, according to the time of painting. It is always the same empty glass, in the same place, painted life size.

The artist’s intentions seem to be both phenomenological and Buddhist; concerned with the attention that might be elicited from small differences and an emptiness or quiet that might be found at the bottom of such attention.

Unlike Opalka and Kawara, whose consistency is a possibility of conceptual art, Dreher’s single-mindedness perhaps arises from a daily practice of painting, and from the humility and gravity of the still life tradition.

The glass is empty but might be filled, or might have been recently emptied. It is a glass for water rather than whisky or wine. The poverty of the motif is an index of its seriousness, of what is at stake.

Addressed again and again, the object yields an infinite variety of lights and tones, of moods and reflections. The task for the viewer may be less one of comparison across the series than to be present without distraction on each occasion.

Nevertheless, all the paintings with this title are gathered, within the two series, into the one idea. The going on and returning, the again and again, the notion of a continuing practice, seem as essential, for both painter and viewer, as the act of looking.