Jürgen Partenheimer’s works hover in a peculiar location. Somewhere specifically approximate. In his first London exhibition, ‘Lichtschwarm’ (Light Swarm), German abstract artist Partenheimer presents his continuing and illusive conversation between art of itself and of its circumstances. This is confidently displayed in the offsite ‘Axis Mundi’ sculpture which stands among city architecture and bustling suits, each element enlivening the other. Otherwise, the work is split between an installation in the 9x9x9 Gallery and various media, mainly painting, in the North Gallery.
Barely visible on the edge of 9x9x9’s entrance is a hand written poem beginning with the word ‘White’ describing glimpses of nature’s tenderness. The words preface the installation, inviting us to consider the artist’s work in the space of The White Cube. Stepping onwards and into the immersive environment, hanging strings hold a flutter of fine wax sticks and trail themselves in tender little swirls on the gallery floor. They provide a metaphysical premise for the accompanying drawings which are a series simple figure-ground compositions and squiggly lines. With titles translating as “roads and places”, these imply that each component cannot be considered in isolation. The pathway is equal to the destination and the journeys around these roads and places is an unpredictable muddle. Perhaps a metaphor for the processes and perceptions of making, displaying and viewing art works.
Shifting to the North Gallery, Partenheimer’s paintings do nothing so audacious as to demand absolute attention. Without grandiosity, meticulous detail or being held by an installation, their lightness of touch recalls the artists words in ‘On Order and Passion’, GAGARIN, 2002, as works which ‘show the presence of what has been felt, as the presence of awareness’. And that presence is so delicate that some pieces might just be weightless enough to slip away.
Partenheimer’s works have an openness to interpretation and association which is acknowledged in their curation. Two paintings astride become strangely connected while barely alike. Arguably, when they’re near similar, like ‘Cantos III #10’ next to ‘Gesammelte Pfade und Lichtungen’, the excitement dissipates. Yet shift the view left to link with ‘Die eigentliche Zeit’, and the zing is back.
‘Maze’ behaves in a similar way. On its own, the hanging bronze portrays a scribbly line drawing within space and containing space. Its existence, which is heightened by the adjacent painting ‘Lichtschwarm’, transforms into a vivid segment of a polymorphous image when an invigilator, bent at the elbows and slightly cross legged, stands nearby.
Viewed in isolation, Partenheimer’s paintings, drawings, vases and sculptures are, in the most part, like vulnerable particles. There’s a sense of relief when they are seen in a surrounding context as played out in his 2008 Ikon exhibition ‘Discontinuity, Paradox & Precision’. Here, a lone piece of work appeared on each floor of Perrott’s Folly thereby incorporating the surrounding textured walls. With such a fleeting sense of connection and presence, it is no wonder his works need to be handled with such careful consideration, along with a wide open and willing eye.