Looking at Michael Krupp´s paintings, one would never assume that the artist once studied architecture, as his work lacks anything static, tectonic, constructive and permanent that a building needs. Instead, Krupp explicitly wants to express the elusive, momentary, fleeting and transient in his works. Experimenting with various materials, techniques and contents he approaches his intention to capture the inapprehensible in fascinating ways.
One of the major motifs of his work is the framed portrait. He uses small medallions containing ivory portraits from his parental home as an inspirational source for a multiform work group. For these works, Krupp casts a wax copy of one of these medallions, focussing merely on its shape, so that after the frame has been robbed of its contents and is empty, it actually generates the original shape of this historical presentation as the prototype of a portrait. The image itself can only be remembered, thus transforming both the portrait and the frame into the expression of experienced and imagined past and history. Both address the development of the painted as well as the photographic portraits. Therefore it is not at all farfetched to claim that Krupp in this context turns toward Gerhard Richter´s cycle of 48 portraits of famous intellectuals (1971/72). It is convincing how he treats the scaled-down paintings as if they were etchings: He engraves them, covers them with greenish varnish and finally frames them into round medallions in such a way that the heads, slightly curved and blurred, are to be guessed rather than recognised. Therefore, one can rightfully speak of the reproduction of a reproduction in which several techniques are interchanged. With this Krupp not only makes the changing representation techniques a point of discussion; he also evokes the memory of heroes of cultural history, and the medallion regains its original function and appreciation.
A closer look at the plaster cast of the family medallion described above reveals that there is something decisively decorative inherent in the patterned, empty frame. And this term opens a new subject matter Krupp is interested in: The adornment, the baroque ornament, that is, something superfluous, may be utterly enchanting exactly because it is dispensable. In one painting, a decorative tendril moulded in great detail and meant to serve as a frame is actually made the content of the painting. As it is comparable to a blossom which emanates its scent only for a while, one may in this context also think of a praline, as its seductive glaze fades all too quickly. The memory of the sweetness of the chocolate lingers even after having enjoyed it merely through the inner, sparklingly golden, crackling plastic foil in which the chocolates were imbedded. And doesn´t the wrapper of a single praline, originally a flat paper circle folded into a three-dimensional wrapping, resemble the frame of a medallion a little? After all, the function of both objects is primarily that they serve to display another object. But in the interest of their producers the lavish wrappings are given their own proper attraction in order to enhance their content, the product, and to present something mouth-watering as something valuable. Undoubtedly the artist clearly does not intend to advertise, but he is interested in the seductiveness as well as the transience of experience. Inevitably, the time factor becomes involved with the notion of the melancholy, even brutality with which every individual sometimes experiences the passing or already elapsed moment. The viewer can now experience this temporal development, too, as it manifests itself visually even in the production process of the more recent paintings and still more clearly in the artist´s videos and objects.
It is fascinating to observe how either a motif or the material or a medium inspires the artist to purposeful new experiences and to see what a great diversity of methods and ways of expression he employs in the realisation of his major concern to render visible what is fleeting, transitory and unseizable. It is an optical phenomenon that a picture or object with a shimmering, shining or even reflecting surface withdraws from clear definition much more than a dull one. Accordingly, most of Krupp´s works are carefully polished. For his smaller, object-like paintings he has discovered Stewalin, a white, shining varnish, and when working with large canvasses he not only primes them but also levels them out in order to eliminate the structure of the fabric. After all, sheen is not only a characteristic of beauty, but it dissolves the materiality into something almost immaterial. The coloured ornamental shapes in his paintings also glow strikingly. They are blossom-like, organoid shapes arranged beside each other or like beams which interlink like cog wheels. These paintings, too, deal with the dialogue between centre and periphery, abundance and emptiness, and Krupp here lifts each centre of the circular forms slightly by means of a back-up device in order to make the paint seep down from the centre towards the edges. As each painting is dominated by a special colour shade, one may associate baroque ornaments, snails and shells, the starry sky or the very opposite, enlarged microstructures. One cannot define whether the shapes are in a stage of developing or dissolution – in any case they none to be captured in a stage of transition, as if they were characterised by a moment of progression.
Changes can evidently be represented well in terms of temporal sequence. That is why Krupp deliberately chose the probably most versatile and simultaneously most immaterial natural phenomenon as the subject of a video film: the clouds. Clouds move and shift; they superpose each other and may dissolve imperceptibly. In a second film Krupp abstracts this natural event into a black-and-white process of continually changing shapes presented along a symmetrical axis. By formulating this type of varying continuity, he also characterises the development of art as such. As Ingeborg Bachmann states so convincingly: „In art there is no progress in the horizontal, but only the always new opening of a vertical. The devices and techniques of art only give the impression that it deals with progress. But what is possible, indeed, is change. And the changing effect coming from new works teaches us new perception, new feeling, new consciousness.“1
The latest of Krupp´s work seems to confirm these considerations of Bachmann completely. Here, the artist puts a metal plate whose surface he has sheathed with thin gold foil into an ornamentally decorated frame. A cooling unit makes the surface change under the influence of the breath of the people present, it loses more and more of its lustre, it does not only become dull, but finally white. In such a way, its original shape, its statement has become invisible, it has virtually died. Essential questions the artist has kept posing are concentrated here: the relationship between frame and centre, of surface and contents. The work represents the topic of change, fleetingness, dissolution and disnoneance directly – as a painted visualisation and an actual demonstration. Certainly, the often referred-to „vanitas“ motif comes to mind easily, yet it is unimaginable that everything has been said with this work and that a climax or even terminal point has been reached, as this would mean that there would be no more variations of his topics for Krupp. But his work is explicitly aimed at change.
1 Ingeborg Bachmann, quoted from: Frankfurter Vorlesungen, in: Gedichte, Erzählungen, Hörspiel, Essays (Munich, 1964) p. 309