Süddeutsche Zeitung - April 17, 2002

ARTS & CULTURE

Structural thinking in the arts, says Jeff Beer, he learned by studying composition and the old masters. Photography is just one medium in which he expresses himself; he is also well known as a sculptor and a percussionist.

Jeff Beer shows photographs in Herrsching

Effortless Transformation of the Everyday into Pure Form

Beyond the atmosphere-trap: Light in a glass of water and other areas of experimentation

Herrsching. It was to be expected that photography of significance would be on display in this exhibition. The biography alone of the multi-talented Jeff Beer tells of a wide-spanning creativity. However, on site, in the lobby of the educational center of the BBV in Herrsching, one wishes that everybody to whom photography – whether as producer or consumer – means more than just souvenir snapshots, would make a pilgrimage here and take home a lesson on seeing.

The exhibition had been on view at the beginning of the year in the literature archives in Sulzbach-Rosenberg, and Jeff Beer had brought all the photographs with him to Herrsching. Far too many, it turned out. It took him ten hours to create a cohesive arrangement of the now smaller group of themes. The popular exotic subjects, brought along from trips afar, are not here. Beer stays – in several senses of the word – “at home.” He treats things in the house with a view of neutral appreciation entirely independent of their function; he looks from the inside to the outside, through the membrane of the windows; and he discovers many things around the house and nearby: light on the leaves of the trees, a piece of the road.

Other photographers may have explored the same avenues, but Jeff Beer never falls into the trap of obvious aesthetics or atmosphere. He steps in with the lens where elements of form are meeting – as if they were arranging themselves according to a higher beauty, a different reality, the world of art in its purest expression, free of all purpose. But it is also possible that he himself is the arranger, and then, by experimenting, reaches this dimension. In such a manner, he discovers in his kitchen sink an empty sardine can filled with water, which now becomes a segment of an oval subtly shaded in red, with dark, harsh parallel lines of shadow on the inside. On top of a metal pot cover that catches light from the window, he places a randomly cut slice of bread whose edge corresponds with a soft bow shape in the background. He fills a simple canning jar with water and looks to see what light does with it. But it can also be that he stands up three dry autumn leaves that have twisted themselves into bizarre shapes, as if they were human figures, and allows them, in warm, reddish-shaded light, to exchange their feelings. In all these images is buried a deep mystery, and this transports them effortlessly and naturally to a place where religion, or spirituality, is at home. And of course art: Beer’s large-scale underwater-images are wonderful symphonies of color; abstract paintings of a high order.

INGRID ZIMMERMANN

Translated by Anne Drager