Jan Thorn-Prikker in an Interview with Günter UmbergGünter Umberg, You describe your Basel work as a model? Why?
The house of paintings is a model, art for the purpose of art. The tower consists of modules that serve as a framework. Sometimes large, sometimes smaller, narrow or wide, sometimes almost square, then standing on end as if reaching for the ceiling. Together with the inserted panels they become a spatial entity. The paintings thus implied and addressed become in this way an integral part of the edifice.
You don't actually fill the model, the frame structure, with the works of other artists. At the Frankfurt Museum of Modern Art you were still using works of art, although one couldn't actually see them. Are you radicalizing your approach, taking it a step further? Whereas in the house of paintings one would expect actual artworks, this time there are only references to them in the form of blank panels. Could your Basel work be referred to as a blank or “empty form”?
I like the notion of an empty form. In this concept the absence of original works points to questions like presence and absence, longing, recollection and imagination. The empty form gives me the possibility to let my own work merge with other works to form a new order.
The title of the work makes reference to the twelfth century Cistercian monastery Fontfroide in southern France and to the order's search for a new beginning in a new spirituality, against the opulence of the clergy and against a purely ornamental utilization of paintings.
The Basel house of paintings ponders the intended purpose of the paintings. To what extent does freedom of action apply when dealing with the works? Can the artist let go of his work, hand it over to the responsibility of another?
My visions of paintings grow with paintings. For several years a house of paintings has been forming in my head. Now I am trying to take that which is in my head, that which arose out of an adventure of experience with paintings and turn it into a built painting. The house of paintings is an archive that has emerged from inside of me. I have been carrying it around with me for a long time. It's got a lot to do with experienced time, with experience. If you love paintings, you simply don't let go of them.
(shortened version of the interview conducted on 15/4/2004)