Untitled (Baum 2), 2014
Oil on Dibond
375 cm × 250 cm
Photo: Lothar Schnepf
© Albert Oehlen. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian Gallery
German artist Albert Oehlen often begins his work by imposing a set of rules or structural limitations - for example, restricting his palette or deliberately working at a slow pace - and his response to these rules then becomes a device for generating a body of work.
Oehlen’s first ‘tree’ work was produced in 1989 and was based on the rule that there should be a vertical shape in the centre with lines increasingly narrowing as they extend from the midpoint. Oehlen’s early trees were defined shapes – clearly identifiable trunk, roots and branches - awash with murky greens, greys and browns. A 2005 tree painting illustrates how his work remained within his parameters but was simplified – a black tree against a two-colour geometric background – thus allowing him to concentrate on the development of the branches.
Oehlen’s recent work has evolved again: whilst the background has remained largely unchanged, the central form is more irregular, has an anthropomorphic quality, a sense of movement in the body away from the surface and a reaching out of the spindly limbs.
For more information, see gagosian.com
Hedge, issue 41, pp66-74, June 2016