"Tomek Lamprecht is an artist with a grand sense of irony, sophistication and playfulness that is entirely engaging. When he speaks of a “projection” it is undoubtedly related to his own sense of lack (as most projections are); yet he is also speculating on the human condition in an ironic and profound way. Like the legendary Sisyphus, the boulder is rolled up the hill only to fall back again. And so Lamprecht finds himself in the ironic situation of making art in a world saturated with media and politics."
— read full Foreward by Robert C. Morgan below
— read full Foreward by Robert C. Morgan below
"...a particularly distilled period of highly focused and urgently imparted work, which, transcend numerous borders, as does Lamprecht himself. Given the artist’s predilections and accomplishments, Lamprecht may always find himself engaged in the fertile territory explored in this series, a terrain that hosts a crossroads between belief and distrust, between the established positions of individual cultures and the provocative curiosities which subvert them."
— read full article by Sean Mooney below
— read full article by Sean Mooney below
By Robert C. Morgan
Tomek Lamprecht is an artist with a grand sense of irony, sophistication and playfulness that is entirely engaging. When he speaks of a “projection” it is undoubtedly related to his own sense of lack (as most projections are); yet he is also speculating on the human condition in an ironic and profound way. Like the legendary Sisyphus, the boulder is rolled up the hill only to fall back again. And so Lamprecht finds himself in the ironic situation of making art in a world saturated with media and politics.
His paintings are both playful and transcendent. There is a sense of innovative ecstasy about his imagery, a profound sense of Nietzschean abandon. There is no system to Lamprecht’s work, yet there is a sense of style. That is to say, when Lamprecht paints an image it is not according to a predetermined imposition. Not at all. When Lamprecht paints he paints according to the moment of language. He discovers the inspired adage, even though it might fall close to the borderline of cliché.
It scarcely matters whether Lamprecht is an artist of clichés or an artistic of ironic inventiveness. He plays his cards close to the cuff. By playing close to the cuff, he is calling forth a concept that is at once social, psychological, political, and much more. His image/texts are poetic. They are fraught with interplay. They offer an ideographic concept of our political reality — or his political reality as it becomes visualized in all its innocence. It is an act of poetic license and forbearance.
There is another factor worth mentioning. Lamprecht is coming from an eastern European point of view into America. The tension between the former Communist East and the Capitalist West is still resonating through his work as it is still a part of our current political reality whether acknowledged or not. Yet, in Lamprecht’s “Projections” there is a parabolic way of relating this conundrum through humor and irony. By doing so, Lamprecht is inadvertently helping us all to better understand the world in which we live.
While his way of seeing may not be our way, he is nonetheless opening our perceptions to a reality that is beyond the “evening news.” Daumier was such an artist, and so is Lamprecht. The difference is that Lamprecht is a transnational artist working through the ironies of our present world.
New York City, October 1997
Projections of Dream Monuments
By Sean Mooney
The series of paintings reproduced in this book, collectively entitled Projections of Dream of Monuments, were executed in New York by Tomek Lamprecht, an artist of Polish and German birth, who spent much of his early life in Poland, Scotland and Cyprus and parts of his adult life in Bali and Southeast Asia. Painted during the period 1986-1991, these works not only are the product of Lamprecht’s uniquely international and relativistic viewpoint but also reveal the influence of their immediate context of international events, such as the war in the Persian Gulf and the Tianenman Square uprising in China. Throughout the work, one has a sensation of distanced media intervention, as though what is presented has been reported and edited, a distillation through the hands of many intermediaries. The paintings also reveal Lamprecht filtering the flavor of such news through the waning days of Reaganism, exposing a particularly American view of double-standards and contradictions, not to mention our electronically-filtered, vicariously experienced perceptions of the world. It is not surprising that the work’s political undercurrents and esthetic/conceptual basis are combined and fused into a viewpoint that can be seen as textbook-definition Post-Modernism: a circuitous mixture of highly-charged appropriated imagery, irrespective of period, place or meaning (context), in certain cases skewing meaning that might otherwise exist within a particular image or phrase. Further captioned with text commentary, itself drawn from a variety of sources and contexts, the paintings are manipulated in such a way as to confuse the meanings of both image and text. Often, these composite pieces provoke ironic readings, usually exaggerating the image’s absurdity or clichés of the text. In each of the pictures/signs, a belief is being deconstructed, torn apart, rather, with physical, pictorial and rhetorical violence.
The format of each painting is uniform throughout the series, consisting of a squarish panel with rounded corners, which contains the primary visual image, and a separate, narrow text panel spanning the bottom of edge of the piece. The text panels are themselves also painted (usually) and perfectly rectangular with squared corners, directing one’s attention back, by contrast, to the television-tube-like appearance of the rounded-off, large square above it. The text panel rectangle provides a straightforward caption-like addition to the main image, much like operatic super-titles or the subtitles of films in other languages (translation is important to these works.) Even more so, perhaps, Lamprecht’s compositional strategy mimics the captioning of static media images, such as magazine advertising or newspaper correspondence photographs. It parallels a culturally recognizable format for digesting images, a format which has been handed down through centuries of sculptural friezes, book illuminations and sacred didactic art, and which is continued today practically unaltered, essentially, through electronic and print media.
This format is essential here for it allows Lamprecht to prod us in a particularly focused direction, one which we are culturally predisposed to absorb. In miming the highly editorial distillation of captioned images, whatever its source or venue, Lamprecht provokes our anticipation of being provided with information. Our instant recognition of the visual form triggers a Pavlovian bell, subliminally surrendering over our initial conscious attention to one of expectation. Equally important for this formal framework to do its job is its repetition and consistency of scale and proportion. The structural details are also essential. The image panels, for instance, are subdivided into equal quadrants promoting further the bullseye-like effect of the square and in general reinforcing each image’s stasis and centrality, its anchored temporality.
Having established the format, Lamprecht inserts therein pairings of highly charged images and equally provocative texts which force the viewer into quandaries of multiple and contradictory interpretations. Reading, in the sense of interpreting ideas and translating signs, is essential to each piece, and the act of engaging in some sort of transcription which each picture demands puts the viewer in the forbidding position of trying to piece together for himself what Lamprecht’s commentary actually is. In some cases, one assumes that the artist is using the paired image and text in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, in a way that one feels we are expected to sympathize with his point of view. Nonetheless, underlying Lamprecht’s presumably ironic subversion is a sincerity of value and totality of perception.
This is the case, I believe with the first painting of the series, Many Physicians Criticize the Willingness of Some Surgeons to Rush Off with the Knife (pg.2). In it, a roughly composed silhouette image of someone in profile being stabbed in the upper back is painted, filling the entire frame. In the background of this frozen act is a hot pink beach of pigment melting into a lurid blue ocean, its horizon line intersecting with the knife’s point of entry into the victim’s back. This penetration itself is placed in the center of the image, reinforced by the painting’s physical quadsection into four panels. The crossing of painted horizon with the vertical, physical division of the panels at the focal point of the action creates a cruciform. The crucifix is suggested within the painting not only by the violent image of pierced flesh but by the posture of the victim, head bending forward, back straight as if attached to a post.
Compounded, then with the text below, we are presented with a silhouetted, thereby anonymous and universal, image of human sacrifice. This subtly plays into our Western sensibilities of a generic Christianity co-existing with a cynical, if thoroughly co-dependent, belief in aggressive medical procedures. It is a representation rife with the dialectical semiotics of physicality and mysticism associated with both Western medicine and Christianity, including an inherent distrust in their motivations and efficacy. The biting visual and rhetorical criticality and violence of this painting is echoed elsewhere throughout the series, specifically in Killer Rabbit, Kill Me, Sabain Zoga, No Abuse of Power Leads to Wisdom and several others.
Some paintings, however, offer simple, iconic images, which along with each caption/text create a semiotic complexity that is completely open-ended in their possible interpretations. For example, Welcome Back, another painting from the early part of the series, presents a greatly enlarged human fetus in an upright posture, as if seated in a lotus position. This piece is rare in the series in that its basic structure deviates slightly from the norm; the squarish center panel is flanked on left and right sides by a text panel, and the words Welcome (left) and Back (right) read vertically top to bottom, as in Asian calligraphic writing. The painting is rendered with a blue-black field throughout image and text, with the text and contour line of the image painted in a pinkish red hue. The handling of the fetus image, in a simple, schematized outline, lends it a transparent, celestial quality, further emphasized by its extreme scale. This huge, glowing nocturnal image with its movie-placard-like text suggests, at first, some science-fiction film, and the exaggerated proportions of the fetus’ head to its body reinforces this reading, especially given that the bizarre image of a fetus is so prominently influential to sci-fi imagery in general. Once one gets past this initial reading, however, a number of other possible sources for this image begin to make themselves felt.
Throughout the series, there is a curious familiarity to Lamprecht’s choice of images, as if he is taking them from prominently public photographs, advertising or art history. This impression of reference is present, of course, because it is outlined by each piece’s physical structure, as mentioned above, but the deadpan directness of most of the images also lend to this supposition that the image has been directly appropriated from some other pre-existing source. Nonetheless, Lamprecht skillfully alters his choices of images sufficiently to completely mask their origins, forcing the viewer into a guessing game of allusions, further evidence of the series’ multiplicity of interpretations.
Is the fetus image, then, taken from an ultrasound x-ray photograph of an actual fetus (sex and fatherhood is a preoccupation and subtext for a number of pieces)? Do the words Welcome Back refer to a familiar sensation of anticipation experienced be an expectant couple? Do they, along with this image, suggest the Hindu belief in reincarnation, and is a soul literally being welcomed back into the terrestrial world? Is this a possible cause for the alteration of the text-captioning format into a more Asian-looking one? How about the upright lotus position?
However, we read this and other pieces, it is always necessary to remember that Lamprecht is forcing the viewer to transcribe everything he presents us with, even if his purpose is that meaningful interpretation may itself be entirely elusive. Nothing is superfluous and every aspect of every piece functions as information. This is true of the physical makeup of the work, vis a vis the choice of materials (wood, steel, leather, gold leaf, formica, etc.) as well as the semiotics of each’s text and image. We can even read into the very title of the project a series of riddles: about art and painting, about the grandiosity of civilization, about Lamprecht’s international distance on any particular perspective and, by contrast, about the simple individual chimeras of mundane human longing.
If we deconstruct the title, Projections of Dream Monuments, we find a metaphoric outline in summary of the dialectical machinations of each painting in the series. Each image is a Projection in numerous ways: they are inventions, they are proposals, contemplations and bets. They are not simply Dream Monuments, which would limit their range of possibilities. Their status as projections gives them a flavor of purposeful randomness, as if the artist is holding out his cards for us to choose from. We are unsure if his closed eyes should mean he genuinely does not know what we are choosing from him or if, like any experienced card shark, he is fully in control of a carefully orchestrated sleight-of-hand (are there further parallels between painting and card games to be explored somewhere?). Lamprecht engages us in recurring and overlapping experiences of mimesis. Each piece offers keys of remembrance. Lamprecht toys with our memories of Romanticized places or ideals, and in this he (rather perversely, given the context) remind one of the nineteenth-century painter Caspar David Friedrich. Like Friedrich, Lamprecht often forces us to not only look inwardly but to look away, behind the main subject and into the distance. In Friedrich, human yearning is expressed most often by a central character who literally has his or her back to us, engaged in their own reveries of inwardness and detachment. Lamprecht’s devices for exposing our yearnings are quite a bit broader but keenly felt nonetheless. With Lamprecht, though, we dream not about far-away places or loved ones on distant journeys, but of meaning itself, of the chimerical memory of a concretely ordered system.
The word Projections also contains, of course, a filmic connotation, again manifest in the rounded-cornered square in each piece, suggestive of movie screen (thus the large scale?) or, from the opposite angle, of the myopic viewfinder of a camera. The word Dream, of course, amplifies this reading, as we can take Dream as a noun in itself, meaning a subconscious projection of images, thoughts and voices. We can also interpret Dream as an adjective for Monuments, creating the dialectic between that which is unreal, illusory, brief and that which is physically imposing important, permanent. Filmic projections are literally images floating in the air, as, in a way, are dreams. But we can also take Dreams to mean the hopes (or disappointments) of people and their individual and collective beliefs, just as we can equally take Monuments as a substantial physical form which manifests those beliefs. These range, in Lamprecht’s hands, between institutions (marriage, religions, governments) and visual icons (which themselves traverse the many representations of gods and goddesses, the B2 Bomber, or the elusively fluid iconography of Capitalist advertising, to name a few). And of course, the paintings are themselves, literally, monumental, given their large scale, aggressively physical paint handling and choice of imposing material and highly-saturated colors.
It is curious, too, that the series Projection of Dream Monuments exists as a relic of sorts, with a defined beginning and ending (1986-1991). Are the paintings, collectively, like a human life, born and died, like a grave marker as evidence, a Monument to a period of Lamprecht’s life (the piece Kevin Died can presumably be read this way)? It is instead, I think, a particularly distilled period of highly focused and urgently imparted work, which, transcend numerous borders, as does Lamprecht himself. Given the artist’s predilections and accomplishments, Lamprecht may always find himself engaged in the fertile territory explored in this series, a terrain that hosts a crossroads between belief and distrust, between the established positions of individual cultures and the provocative curiosities which subvert them. Like Shelley’s Ozymandius, Lamprecht exposes the temporal faults and fissures in our cultural monuments, be they grandiose power structures or the idealistic banalities by which we place our collective stakes. In doing so he shatters many of the mirrors in which we choose to see ourselves reflected.
New York City, January 1998
New York City, January 1998