Touching, searching, finding

When I first went to London on my own at the age of fourteen the things I found beautiful and began to draw were the walls of posters where one poster was stuck on top of another. When, later, I went to South London I discovered the partly demolished houses. Houses which had been to torn down had left their plaster, wallpaper, paint and form stuck to the outside wall of the neighbouring house.

The most humble surfaces can be beautiful tactile experiences but we tend to pass them by. The bare wall print from a demolished house is seldom considered beautiful; it is usually tidied up. Our houses are coated with neat flat plaster which denies any surface interest but is easy to clean. By isolating and reproducing some wall surfaces Heinz-Dieter Pietsch halts us in our tracks. What we have taken for granted and ignored is presented to us as worthy of art status.

I'm not usually impressed by a painter's technical prowess. I've seen too many people caught in the blind alley of technical accomplishement, painting uninspired pictures, to be caught off-guard.Occasionally, however, such prowess is a part of what I find myself admiring in a piece of work. Heinz-Dieter Pietsch captures transient surfaces, recording them with enviable brilliance.

His paintings and drawings are delicate, gentle portraits of stone surfaces but they gain a weight which tricks the eye into feeling they are the stones themselves. Even when from two inches away we see that they are flat we have to touch the surface to make sure. A friend, who saw an exhibition of Heinz-Dieter Pietsch's work, emerged, saying, "However did they get those things in there!" His eyes had been completely deceived by the three dimensional quality.

"Large Wall Section," painted in 1978 using acrylic on cambric, has a calm, subtle surface. Once your eyes focus on one of his works the surface seems to ease away strains. There is none of the effort to be made that is demanded by aggressive pictures but a kind and gentle therapy that strokes our perception and delights us. The magic is that something so simple and so overlooked could be so beautiful.

The two "figures" of "Large Wall Section" converse gently. They stand aloof, beaked like old crows with scarred and wrinkled skins. Heinz-Dieter Pietsch found them and preserved them before they were demolished or hidden under some slick new skin of plaster. But under all the neat walls of our houses similar surfaces lie, created by art and by accident and then unceremoniously entombed, perhaps never to be seen and appreciated by any discoverer.

Heinz-Dieter Pietsch teaches us to look where we have overlooked. He calls into question our readiness to accept traditional ways of seeing. Selecting a surface he presses his paper or canvas onto and into it, making a kind of cast. Thus for a time the paper or canvas actually becomes three-dimensional. In this state he adds some of the painting and drawing and then stretches the canvas or flattens the paper back to two dimensions. Finally he works on the flat surface , unifying the details until he feels he has reached thde finished picture.

Like Mark Tobey, Heinz-Dieter Pietsch knows that art does not depend upon a grand subject. A truth may be reached by looking at a single stone. You may do a world tour in search of an answer only to find the answer in your back yard. It was Brancusi who never threw away dead flowers. He said they were just as beautiful in their skeletal form as when alive. It is this philosophy that Heinz-Dieter Pietsch is helping to extend.

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