Pollen Flight of the Glance

"Birth", 60 x 25 x 20 cm, Iron Sculpture, 1995
60 x 25 x 20 cm, Iron Sculpture,

Where the soil is rich in iron and the remains of metamorphic rock corrode into the entrails of the earth like a millennial snail, Jeff Beer is working. The sculpture presented here can hardly be decoded verbally. Titles, which, in the first stage of his work are strings of pearls, poetic invention and assonance, have ultimately yielded to ciphers.

"I can't know what image I'm looking for, yet I can go somewhere – go there just to be there and try to be wholly there," says Jeff Beer. And he has gone there and proven, with his steps from the first stage of his work, EISENZEIT (IRON AGE, 1985), up to the second stage, ANWESEN/ABWESEN (PRESENCE/ABSENCE, 1990–91), that he has the strength to resist limiting himself, because of success, to one genre. Viewers have taken Beer's figurines (sculpture formed of iron nuggets, which are fitted together in a bizarre manner) and 1980s scenarios choreographed of tentacles (scenes from the game of life as it is played out daily) to their hearts. But what has been happening since the seemingly playful object trouvé sculpture which so quickly gave rise to comparisons with Gonzales? Jeff Beer is suspicious of such quick insights. He devotes an encyclopedic search to finding out what sculpture is; his work is increasingly concerned with an attempt to 'uncover the polyphony of seeing.' On the way to the lodes of knowledge he seeks — the inner spaces of sculpture — the flashes of insight have become more compressed; yet they flare out even more brilliantly. Nevertheless, nothing has happened in ANWESEN/ABWESEN which was not evident in the first phase of his work when Beer was primarily concerned with testing as many approaches to forming the material as possible. His vision of forming sound spaces was deferred for a time; his exploration of composition was postponed while he was exploring the material properties of iron.

Beer works with the eyes and the hands of a musician — the distinctiveness of his sculpture lies in his being an 'artist of all media.' Currents diverted from music influence the way he sees and reveal the path he must travel before Beer, the craftsman, can put the findings of Beer, the theorist, into practice and then release them into the waiting form. For him, creating EISENZEIT meant feeling for all possible images that lie concealed in the properties of metal. The next logical step involved reducing and concentrating on the essentials, working out forms in which iron as a material is congruent with the idea of imago, the final and perfect stage. Beer's new work, ANWESEN/ABWESEN, is more sparse externally, yet richer inwardly. There are elements of his earlier EISENZEIT, tours de force which bring laughter back into this intractable material, that bring it close to myth, riches and decline. The sculptures and installations ANWESEN/ABWESEN — "Pocher I and II" (1990–91), "Double Figure" (1991), "Stelen" (Stelas, 1991) and "Tor" (Gate, 1991), first shown in 1991 by the Stolz Gallery in Cologne and then at the Basel Art Fair, are indeed all masterpieces. Beer's attempt to integrate the extremes of imago and materia take on a form in which iron retains its essential properties: the compactness and massiveness of its gravity, the static power which emerges with reduction and to which diverse, continually changing surfaces have been added.

Between the extremes of the surfaces, polished to mirror-like smoothness and also corroded, a vestige of imago remains in the forms of ANWESEN/ABWESEN. The viewer's next step could dispel it and replace it with something different. Oscillating between scar and crystal, opening and shutting, Jeff Beer based the experiment he conducted on the functionally determined form of a T-beam to produce a cycle of works in which he was studying the properties of this technical form. By "Spiel für Beckett" (Play for Beckett, 1991), Beer was making the gist of what he was doing completely clear. In "Tor" he continued to explore. The equilibrium this sculpture attained, which can be read backwards, comprises mass and movement; static solidity and instability lie together in the form. Visionary powers reverberate between opening and shutting.

Research into sculpture, its breathing process. . . Has anyone sung the song of the wise fool who opens gates anew with glimpses of images?

Renate Lotz

"Pollenflüge Des Blicks/Pollen Flight of the Glance"
Nike International Art Magazine, München, September 1993

By Renate Lotz