The simultaneity of all things
Welcome note by Konstanze Wolter, Founder & Managing Partner e.artis
When I close my eyes and turn my face toward the sun, the light
produces a shimmering surface on the inward of my closed eyelids,
mostly in one color shade. The paintings by Michael Goller
remind me of this inner eyelid image. The dark time of year begins
and with it his exhibition of light.
At the reception, the pure color energy concentrating on the white
walls with a moving luminous power is instantly noticed. It is as
if one is captivated in the green of spring, the yellow of summer,
the white of frost, the blue of the sky...
The monochrome color of each painting is the first thing we
notice and that renders us receptive like a warm ray of sun on
one’s eyelid in the early morning. Open-minded, one moves closer,
and a new world emerges. We discover only outlines of figures
that remind us of sport, religion, work ... Hidden in the deep
colors are associations so complex that the story they tell will be
different for each of us with each painting.
Michael Goller once told me that he liked the light and tried to
paint it again and again. When he says this, he means not just
the light illuminating the world, but also the inner light that he
and probably each person carries within oneself. For instance,
deep layers of drawings, glazes and overpaintings underlie the
paintings. There can be up to 15 layers of material that, in extreme
cases, he has painted completely in black and only a small
segment of which he leaves visible. What seems as simple as if
painted by a child is formed through hard-fought color tests and
long interaction with a painting.
When I saw distinct specks of color in some paintings, I wondered
what the smudge is doing in the painting that is actually
already finished? “That’s how it is,” says Michael Goller. “The
paintings may simply be as they are. Value-free.” It is not about
being beautiful, sightly, decorative. The mostly sculpturally elevated
dot of color is like a leaf on the surface of the sea swimming
in front of the sky’s image reflected in the sea. Thus, the last
layer, which sits right at the top on the surface of his canvases, is
a reference to what lies beneath and the simultaneity of all things
in an unprejudiced present.
Michael Goller’s ink drawings complement the paintings in the
new creative phase, which he calls the “picture-text-context”.
We see artworks as he has never created them before and – as
he says himself – will never be able to create them again.
Let us savor Goller’s introverted work by considering his artworks
unbiased and gain – our own light.
An ornamental round dance
On Michael Goller’s ink drawings by Dr. Jutta Moster-Hoos, Head of Horst Janssen Museum Oldenburg
“The medium is the message” - the central thesis of Canadian
philosopher and communication theoretician Marshall McLuhan
(1911 – 1980), and a mantra we repeat. We, too, are convinced
that the modern communication technologies change our thinking
and perception, regardless of the “message” that is communicated.
Considering Michael Goller’s media study, a detour into
this discipline seems appropriate to me.
The artist reflects unceasingly in his artworks on the two media of
painting and drawing in a sensuous, extraordinarily clear manner.
If surfaces, colors, color gradients and brushwork are attributed
to painting, then drawing stands for lines and strokes, black/white
contrasts and handwriting.
Goller brings all these elements together. However, he does not
mix these levels; rather, he always makes himself and the observer
aware that he is changing between “pictorial” and “graphic”,
and that these levels function independently of each other. One
the one hand, Goller creates pictorial color spaces that suggest
three-dimensional depth and that form backgrounds and yet provide
no indications regarding space and time. On the other hand,
he draws figures that stand out clearly due to their outlines, without
their function becoming unmistakably clear.
In his ink drawings, Goller is naturally reliant on the linear design.
However, he not only uses lines but also creates surfaces and
different black tones by means of layers of strokes. In contrast to
his paintings, which are rather static in design, the ink drawings
have a dynamism that connects and actuates the image’s elements.
Swirls cause the delicate patterns building up before our
eyes to move. The eye frequently tries to detect human figures
arising from the wads of lines. Goller plays with the vertical silhouette
and adumbrates gatherings of people, while the observer
can also make associations with clothing. However, it is rather
an ornamental round dance spun by him in that everything is
interwoven with everything, a round dance that could seemingly
be continued without end. The observer sees snapshots of an
eternal world theatre that he looks at with amazement but does
The nexus of abstract and figurative elements, the grading of
space levels, the combination of pictorial and graphic structures
- all of this makes us reflect on the creative process. It is more
than consistent that Goller’s works are released from his studio
“untitled”: the medium is the message.
Art of interim spaces
On Michael Goller’s current artworks by Ludwig Seyfarth, Art Critic & Curator KAI 10 Arthena Foundation, Dusseldorf
Michael Goller’s art is one of interim spaces and tilting effects.
His artworks oscillate between writing and image, depiction and
self-referential form, narrative openness and hermetic reticence,
planar expansion and spatial layering, transparency and congestion.
The use of colour also includes a transitional moment, for
even where bright, strong colours are used, the colours are always
integrated into an environment consisting of similar shades.
Hence, there is always a tendency towards monochromy, to
which the title of this publication also refers.
The media of drawing and painting, which Goller primarily uses
to express himself, are just as “interwoven” with each other as
the strokes and lines that overlie each other on various levels
– drawn on the drawings delicately and in a mesh-like manner
with black or coloured ink, covering the image surface on the
paintings with a wide brush.
The drawings, which are rich in detail, frequently develop on panoramatic
wide formats. The sheets, produced in around 2014,
exhibit a patchwork-like structure made up of several centres
or vanishing points, while the individual image elements on the
newer drawings are combined compositionally into larger sheets.
Goller is currently working on much wider formats, which he is
processing successively like Chinese scrolls. The images that
emerge on the drawings as if out of the strokes always seem to
suggest organic images or objects, without being identifiable as
concrete representations of external things. Thus they remain, in
a way, an intermediate state between writing and image.
While, as the observer of these wide formats, one follows the
movement impulses of the lines and the eye as well as the body
move in order to capture everything, the formats of the paintings
are more compact. Here, too, linear tracks and outlines determine
the composition. However, the lines drawn with the brush
are much wider than on the drawings and fill up the entire canvas
in several layers. There are no areas that are not covered with
paint, although lower layers remain visible in many places.
However, the different levels penetrate each other visually so
strongly that a clear spatial division into Front and Behind, into
foreground and background never results. This certainly does not
apply to a painting that is defined by almost black shades, in
which the spatial layers are quasi swallowed up.
Here, such elements that have nested on other paintings and
seem to have migrated here as if from the drawings would not be
visible any more either. These are small, stencil-like outlined figures
that, compared with the large gestures of the painted rulings,
which sometimes also outline fragmentary bodies or objects, appear
The detectable motifs are often based on photo templates from
newspapers. However, in the pictorial implementation, the concrete
political and contemporary historical events that they originally
documented or illustrated are condensed und generalised.
So there is no real narration. Each external reference is quasi
incorporated into the painting in the painting process, so that the
photo template is left as it were sucked empty.
This applies even more consistently to the photographs that were
connected to Goller’s biography and showed him in his childhood
and youth. The artist used them successively as templates
for paintings and subsequently destroyed them. Thus, the “soul”
of the photos so to speak migrated into the paintings and the
body that was left was “buried”.
The photograph, which can “eternalise” each moment that has
passed in the painting and preserves it from being forgotten, is
thus given over to oblivion itself. The memory can no longer adhere
to it; rather, it can only be reminded itself.
Hence, behind Michael Goller’s art is also the attempt to activate
a different image memory with the classic media of painting and
drawing than that facilitated by media-based images. Can his
layer-like pictorial inventions not also be seen as images of memory,
thinking also of Sigmund Freud’s famous “Note upon the
‘Mystic Writing-Pad’” (1925)? With a mystic writing pad, what is
drawn or written on a sheet of paper lying on a wax tablet can repeatedly
be deleted if the paper loses contact with the wax tablet.
However, the process of deletion is not complete, as a – albeit
only weakly visible – trace always remains.
Michael Goller’s paintings and drawings could be traces of earlier
inscriptions – written in a language whose code we are not familiar
with and that we would have to decode like archaeologists
decode the hieroglyphics of a past culture – made visible.
Despite the proximity to language and characters, the relationship
of text and image in Michael Goller’s work is a completely
different one from in the many manifestations of an art that is
purposefully “conceptual”, that is, based on a verbally expressed
or expressible idea. For what takes place in his images can be
described only insufficiently with linguistic means. Goller repeatedly
plays with the area between writing and image and his forms
consist mainly of what cannot be clearly identified as concrete
objects. Hence, it is not easy to describe what is perceived in
terms of linguistic categories.
Ultimately – one could say – image “is victorious” over writing
in Goller’s works. And what shows itself therein is an image understanding
that is barely covered by currently circulating, semiotic
“pictorial science”. One who reads images as only “visual
communication” will hardly be able to gain anything from Michael
Goller’s art and will overlook the fact that it – despite the concentration
on apparently traditional means of expression – contains
very current potential, namely, a counterproposal to an image
understanding that is orientated towards only technical media.
Not least does the gesture of subsequently destroying the biographical
photographs converted into paintings make Goller’s
work a proposal for an image understanding that eludes the exclusive
influence of technical media and the associated need for