Rebecca LittleJohn interviewed Paul Rotterdam for AUSTRIA KULTUR on the occasion of his exhibition at the Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock , 1995.
The Speed of Light
RLJ: With respect to the speed of light, how fast do paintings travel ?
PZR : Painting is the art of the finest feelings. Feelings travel as fast as light itself. It is at
least theoretically possible that the entire message of the painting is contained in the
emotion evoked in the moment of first encounter.
RLJ: You often occupy your space with something that keeps me out of your depth.
May I approach you?
PZR: The space in my paintings is not the kind you expect in illusionist easel painting. In the
1970’s it was mostly a void. In the eighties, when I began to fall in love with certain
particular structures or events in nature, the space became perhaps less objective, more
celestial, occupied by elements which made of the work a nature all of its own. Often I
keep you out by physical elements which act as barriers or guards and I draw you into
the space through your increased desire to transcend immediacy.
RLJ: I nibble and chew on you as I go. You make stations to precipitate my gulf. Must I
interpret your moves or is a rose a rose ?
PZR: The greatest artists always had the greatest insights into art. An artist cannot hide in the
fog of subjectivity and pure emotionalism without knowing the premises on which his
art should be built. Not everything is possible at all times. The appreciation of works of
art is not the taking of a sensuous bath in warm stimuli, but the complete
consummation of an act of looking at the various alternatives the work is presenting
while alluding to other alternatives of procedure.
RJL: You trip me up holding space in one hand and depth in another. Is there a bridge
PZR: The depth of a painting is not identical with its space. I would like to conceive of depth
as an emotional gravity or something which leads deep into zones of yet unexplored
RLJ: The deeper region of a painting will be the center of focus. After everything else is
built, in these regions you practice true painting. Is there method to absolutism ?
PZR : I am not trying to depict any particular reality in my work . The sublime totality of the
work itself is the actual reality of art. I long for the intangible and the mysterious in
nature which will find itself in the created object. There you don’t see depicted
concepts but an emotionally charged visual environment which arose from an inner
vision about the essence of the visible world and the new state into which the art of
painting needed to be pushed.
RLJ: Strip painting of qualities and the proposition dies mortal. Is that the reason you
protect exposed areas ?
PZR: Quality derives from the success of a painting to demonstrate the importance of its
propositions. Abstract art should be an invention of formlessness which strains
imagination to its limits. The unity of pictorial elements accounts for the work’s
specific structural identity. It reveals the workings of a single soul and the object in its
transparency conveys a spiritual content. It shows the striving of a consciousness into
a territory which is its own possession.
RLJ: You handle three-dimensionally with the tactics of a traditional landscape painter. Do
I need shoes ?
PZR: Already in the beginning of the 20th century abstract painters became aware that a
form that represents nothing outside itself is strictly speaking a physical , three-
dimensional element that affects the ontological status of what a painting can be.
Regardless in what physical form a painting may appear, you will not need shoes but
eyes to travel the expanse of possible spaces in art, from the most intimate and direct
physical form, over the space of mountains and clouds into the distances of heaven
and the remotest corners of hell.
RLJ: You wander in the pathos of myth long depicting it.
PZR: The night-rainbow, I mean the depiction of the night bow, took ten years of boiling in
my head before I was able to paint it. Friedrich had sent me a night bow in the sky
after I had given a lecture on his night bow painting. But then there was the “Lost
Love” series that broke up and started all over again for the past 15 years. The
“Broken Tree” series was an intense mourning over death.
RLJ: An animal central to life in the pen of the unicorn dies. Will myth die?
PZR: Myth moves like a cloud into the spiritual workings of mankind to provide
refreshment from barren logic. The rational, when thirsting for the irrational, produces
a truth larger than what can be deducted from the physical world and creates meaning
from seemingly unrelated events.