MAX DRÖMMER: BEAUTY
ZOTT Artspace Munich
12 January – 8 February 2019
Opening hours: Mon-Fri, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
LET COINCIDENCE BE CREATIVE
By Dr. Eva Karcher
Lights. Narrow lines connect above the luminous monochrome surface, forming a melodious ornament of forms roaming freely in space. The first artwork by the artist and philosopher Max Drömmer from 1960 already formed its own weightless universe. In a conversation with the author, he recalls: “The beauty I wanted to create in my first artwork has remained my main goal in painting. To put it bluntly, to me, art is the hunt for beauty.
This combination of two elementary forces motivates Max Drömmer in his thinking, feeling and perception. As he explained in an interview with ZOTT Artspace, he has experienced that beauty always awakens happiness, ” joy in what is perceived as beautiful, without seeing beauty as a means to an end for other purposes”.
Being happy, which he equates with Immanuel Kant’s disinterested pleasure, is the elixir of Max Drömmer’s art. As an artist, however, he creates not only with the medium of visual arts, but also through piano improvisations and his poems in the mediums of music and poetry. Max Drömmer follows his inner voice in music and poetry and his sensual sensations in painting and drawing without getting involved in a discourse about historical artist heroes or the contemporary art scene.
There are no direct transferences from one sphere to the other. There are no poems that illustrate pictures, for instance, and no sounds seen as synesthetic colors. But the technique of musical improvisation and the method of guided pouring of colors onto canvases, which the artist frequently uses, correspond in so far as their results – the respective compositions – are not based on conceptual sketches. His picture cosmos with their flowing rhythms, the interweaving of lines and euphoric-energetic color harmonies feed themselves rather from a form of meditative imagination.
In his graphics, the artist allows himself satirical liberties with minimalist strokes, including allusions to contemporary events and contemporaries. He unfolds a highly amusing and bizarre cabinet of curiosities made up of hybrid animal and human creatures, all still far away from paradise.
What the artist philosopher Max Drömmer succeeds in with every work is using art as an homage to beauty, following Hegel’s definition: “Beauty is defined as the sensual appearance of the idea”.
“For me, painting is about an insight in which one recognizes oneself.“
Max Drömmer in Conversation With ZOTT Artspace
Is there such thing as the beauty of thought?
Thoughts have content that can express itself linguistically. Texts can be beautiful if they are written stylistically well, concisely and clearly. Even logical proofs and logical proof procedures can have these properties. Mathematics also has its own kind of beauty, for example the simple theory of natural numbers. Or the implementation of real numbers.
Stendhal said: „La beauté n`est que la promesse du bonheur“. Do you agree with him?
“Beauty is only the promise of happiness“. I’m not sure I understand what that means. Surely an ugly man can appear beautiful to a woman or a man can see a woman as more beautiful than she is if the other person raises pleasant expectations. But that is a question for psychology. To me, the following connection between beauty and happiness is important: beauty awakens happiness, the joy in what is perceived as beautiful, without seeing beauty as a means to an end for other purposes. This happiness could be described, according to Kant, as “disinterested pleasure”. Similarly, according to the Scottish empiricist David Hume: “A taste of beauty is the source of all the finest and most innocent enjoyments of which human nature is susceptible”. (Of the Standard of Taste, 1757).
How does an object become beautiful?
Basically, there is nothing that is beautiful in itself. There is therefore no purely objective beauty. But this does not mean that beauty is purely subjective. It is, as Hume says, both: objective and subjective. Something objectively has the potential to be recognized as beautiful in subjective experience. This applies to trees, seas, people, animals, but also to objects made by people, such as works of art.
Can philosophy learn anything from art?
There are certainly reciprocal effects between philosophy as a worldview and art. For instance the afterlife-centered worldview of the Middle Ages changing to the more earthly view of life during the Renaissance was influenced by the fact that art began to focus on human beings. Art does not make any assertions, but it can change perspectives and thus influence philosophical though.
According the Kant, the theory of beauty can be developed independently of art. Do you think there is an a priori connection between art and beauty?
No. There are probably people who perceive beauty as beautiful although they have never seen a work of art. What they notice are beautiful trees, beautiful flowers, beautiful people, beautiful animals, the sound of the water or the wind, the character of a person: “una bella persona”, as the Italians say. Art does not have to strive for beauty either. The political message can have priority, or just the fun of playing with light effects.
Are there any other keywords besides beauty that define your work?
In my work, especially in my drawings and music, fun is often involved. So humor would be another characteristic. But in painting it is especially important to me that the expression of something that cannot be described unmistakably. It is an insight in which one recognizes oneself, but does not detect any characteristics. That sounds paradoxical. In every description, what is described is described by properties. The recognition of oneself cannot be described, nevertheless it is nothing unusual. You recognize yourself as what you yourself – as yourself – are. There are gradations of this knowledge, its higher degrees are called enlightenment. Which is something that can be ascribed to Plato and Plotin.
When does an object become a work of art?
When an artist declares it to be his work of art. A urinal hung on the wall like Marcel Duchamp’s or an orchestra being silent for four minutes and 33 seconds in the composition by John Cage can be a work of art.
In addition to painting you also compose and write poems and prose. Are you also looking for beauty there??
I actually am looking for beauty when I paint and improvise music and write – whether poems, stories or philosophical texts. It’s about different kinds of beauty. You can distinguish them according to what kind of joy their recognition awakens. The joy one might feel when listening to my piano improvisations may resemble that which my pictures can awaken. But the joy of reading beautiful prose is probably a different kind.
Chance is an important element of your work process. Why?
Chance brings about a natural beauty to which one can react in order to create something that would not be possible without it.
How important is it to you to share your work? Can a philosopher work without a reader and a painter without a viewer?
I paint because I feel compelled to do so, without wondering if I can reach others through my work. But I am happy when sometimes someone understands what it was all about. I continue to work daily on theoretical questions of philosophy because the world is still a mystery to me in so many ways. But of course one wants to communicate when one has recognized something, or thinks one has recognized something.
Born on 5 January 1927 in Traunstein, Max grew up as the middle child of three siblings in a merchant family. From an early age, he sketched on the back of his parents’ bills of lading. He has also been very athletic since childhood. He skied and mountain climbed, and is a sport climber to this day. After graduating from high school in 1946, he began studying philosophy in Munich and Würzburg, an received his doctorate in 1954 with a thesis about the medieval philosopher Theodoricus Teutonicus.
In 1956 he studied formal logic. In 1959 he was awarded a British Council scholarship to study at University College in London for a year. While there, he developed new logical systems. In 1960 he became assistant to Wolfgang Stegmüller at the Institute for Philosophy, Logic and Philosophy of Science at the University of Munich, where he habilitated in 1963 with a thesis on logical truth and received a professorship for logic and theory of science. His research focuses on the philosophy of physics, logic and general theory of science.
At that time, Max Drömmer began working on his ongoing manuscript “Philosophische Skizzen” (Philosophical Sketches), in which he deals with epistemology, metaphysics, moral theory and the philosophy of consciousness. In 2007 he published the book “Reality and Relativity”, an analysis of the theories of relativity.
He began drawing and painting in 1959, and since 1962 has been writing poems as well. In 1967 he married the painter Iris Drömmer and later took her last name. His son Jakob Drömmer was born the same year. He met his partner Martine Nida-Rümelin, who has been a professor of philosophy in Fribourg, Switzerland since 1999, in 1980. Their son Korbinian Nida-Rümelin was born in 1996.
Starting in 1990 Max Drömmer began focusing more on his artistic work. Up until 1995 he created geometric works in acrylic, then paintings using a controlled pouring technique, and from 2005 on colorful digital prints. Starting in 2007 he began to digitally process his drawings, and subsequently produced felt pen drawings on paper towels as well as paintings with gold on blue backgrounds, and since 2016 has created new works using a pouring technique. His piano improvisations created since 1991 have been digitally revised since 2007, and around 10 CDs have been pressed to date. He has also been writing plays and short prose since 2005.
Exhibitions of Max Drömmer’s work last took place at the Galérie du Carmin d’Art in Fribourg in 2012, at the Galerie am Hirschengraben in Zurich in 2013 and again at the Galérie du Carmin d’Art in 2014. In July 2017, the exhibition “phoinix” at the Tivoli power plant in Munich provided an overview of his entire oeuvre, for which a catalogue was produced.
The art historian Dr. Eva Karcher is an author, journalist and expert in the field of contemporary art, the art market and the crossover of fashion, design, lifestyle, philosophy and art. For years she has published articles in leading daily newspapers and magazines. She publishes books, curates exhibitions and advises collectors and companies as an art market expert. Her publications include several books on Otto Dix, Italian Design (2000, Heyne Verlag), Cosmetic Surgery (2004, Taschen Verlag), Erlkönig/Prototypes (2009, DuMont), The New New (2010, Distanz Verlag), Katharina von Werz (2013, Distanz Verlag), Julie Valmes, Transmission (2016 Distanz Verlag). In 2017 and 2018 she worked in project management (exhibition, catalogue) with the artists Max Drömmer, Judith Milberg and Fiona Tan.