Night, twilight, and day – these are the three realms in which Jakob Mattnerʼs art comes into being and reigns. His constellation however is a utopian one that places our world at the inside of a sphere, where the earth, the skies and the stars, night and day have their place, as if set under one roof. The endlessness of the cosmos no longer surrounds us but flows away from under our feet, following one current. Still immeasurable and immense, it is no longer omnipresent.
Now the visible world becomes measurable, dividable and sliceable, the universe has turned into a malleable mass, substance of which sculptures can be chiseled. Night can be caught and folded, day can be polished into diamond shape, and between glass partitions twilight is captured.
Exploring the matters of dark and light is leitmotiv in Mattnerʼs oeuvre. Modest materials such as glass and strings, soot and dispersion summon deep drama and stark contrasts. As his journey progresses from night to light, Mattner often crosses the twilight zone, with work that combines ratio with poetry, calculation with magic. Evanescence or substantiation – the appearance of the cosmos as defined by the angle of a ray of light.
The work executed during the seventies focuses mostly on darkness, on night. ʻIn der Mitte ist die Nachtʼ (In the centre is the night) is a central thought for this body of work and ʻTotes Lichtʼ (Death Light) a regular notation connected to the soot-covered sculptures that belong to this time. In both sculpture as well as drawing, Mattner embodies the black beauty of the origin of all things. When Genesis describes the creation of light out of the darkness that lay over the land, it is precisely this generative capacity of night, of darkness, of black, that Mattner tries to capture. A seminal exhibition in this context is ʻSchwarzʼ (Black), organized in 1981 by the Städtischen Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (Germany) where Mattnerʼs work is featured in the company of works by Jannis Kounellis, Mario Merz, Lucio Fontana, Mark Rothko and Kasimir Malevich et al. Black as the ultimate no-space, no-time condition is the exhibitionʼs core concept.
In the fans of the night
everything is bright and clear.
To give back the magic.
It is easy.
(J. M. 1979)
A parallel route that is explored by the artist during this time consists of the ʻZwielichtʼ (Twilight) works. Without the density of a black presence, these sculptures are executed in simple transparent glass. The cast shadows are the actual works of art, the materials used are merely tools. “Glass is like the time between night and day,” writes Mattner. This constitutes the bridge to 1980s works such as ʻPercussionʼ, ʻZwielichtʼ (Twilight) and the ʻSpiegelungenʼ (Reflections) where glass, mirrors and light come together to create space experiences, fleeting and ethereal but utterly unwavering in their presence.
Copyright. 401contemporary, Berlin