Colourfield, Colourspaces & Colourexperience

Colour as aesthetic experience is the main theme in the art of Gabriele Vallentin. While her earlier paintings were predominantly figurative, she has recently developed a more differentiated abstract visual language. Rectangular fields in carefully chosen hues of colour are a characteristic trait of most of the large format canvases, which evoke the visual impression of colour spaces. Having no recognizable subject, the paintings are only susceptible to the spontaneous perception and individual sensibility of the viewer.

In the first large canvases of the years 2003 and 2004 with the collective title Transitions she concentrated on transitions. This is meant in regard to the content as much as to the form: as regards content, in the sense of translating personal impressions which she collected during long-distance travels into an abstract visual language, as regards form, in the sense of an artistic transformation by creating soft borders at the transitions between the different fields of colour. The colours she chose correspond to her remembered impressions. The oil paint is applied in several layers and thereby receives its luminosity. This process of painting is time-consuming and requires a precise knowledge of the materials as well as extensive experience.

The colour fields that appear two-dimensional have been developed from the middle of the painting and have been woven into a delicately balanced texture of dense and dispersed parts. The artist seeks a balance between the spaces of colour within the surface of the painting in which all the elements become part of a harmonious composition where all parts are related to each other as well as to the whole. In this way she tames and moderates the power of the colours. At the end of the process of painting she smooths the top layer of colour with a large brush so that no brush stroke remains visible. The marks of the creative process are thus deleted and the smooth surface of the painting is defined only by the more or less rough texture of the canvas.

While references to an actual existing reality can always be found in her figurative works, the paintings of the series Ohne Titel (Without Title) lack any tangible reference. They do not refer to any objects or specific impressions. The artist only works with colour and space. In these paintings, colour is a creative device for its own sake and not an illusionistic tool serving to depict reality. The coloured spaces are arranged in order to create a three-dimensional effect. The resulting illusion is not comparable, however, with the works of the Old Masters, who created three-dimensional space with the help of perspective. It is in fact due to the contrasts of the overlapping and superimposed fields of colour with their diffusing edges as well as to the visual qualities of the colours themselves with their own specific effect of closeness and distance. During a more concentrated contemplation of these colour spaces the viewer is encouraged to respond to the specific effect of distinct colours and to connect them with their own associations. It is the very stimulation of their own sensitivity for colours which makes them susceptible to the meditative expressiveness of these works. Repeatedly the artist has let herself be artistically inspired during her journeys to non-European countries. The attraction of the foreign world and a fresh unprejudiced view have triggered several series of works. On location Gabriele Vallentin captures the new sensual impressions in numerous studies in watercolours which might also be figurative. Through these studies she sharpens her own perception for the things she sees and becomes more rooted to these places. Looking through these watercolours they seem like a travel diary which memorizes personal impressions and specific atmospheres. Later on in her studio these sensual experiences will be worked up and sorted out in order to be transformed into an encoded abstract visual language.

At the core of Gabriele Vallentin's artistic work are her sensibility for colours and their atmospheric values as well as her receptivity for strong sensual impressions. She concentrates her personal impressions into well-structured aesthetic concepts that find their correspondent expression in painted abstractions. In her paintings she renounces all kinds of impulsive, gestural expressions. The impact of well-balanced colour compositions is comparable to the effect of music, in that it directly appeals to the emotions of the viewer. The seeing eye is thus complemented by the perceiving soul. In contemplating the paintings of Gabriele Vallentin the viewer can discover their individual ability of perception and their own sense of colours.

Birgit Laschke-Hubert. Catalogue Gabriele Vallentin, Painting, 2008. Translated by Felicity Lunn