In the exhibition circling the square, Michael Biberstein offers us a thoughtful statement on painting as a systematic practice. The artist revisits the history of art in order to recover, in its subliminal radicalism, structural elements that we identify as the fundamental tools of painting used by the vanguards of the 1920s.
Landscape, the subject that best epitomises the work of the author, is developed through the usage of a colour palette that achieves greater density through the relation between surface and transparency. The faint movements produced by unveilings and overlays transform the canvas in a visual field that erupts in the direction of the depth of the painted image. Facing it, we feel as if we could look into the interior of the represented universe without being conscious of the physical limits of the painting support.
This notion, the abstraction of the limits of the painting support - the canvas' format - generates a synesthetic tension within the observer that triggers an undeniable appeal for us to focus on the painting, recovering the subject's physical and psychological (temporal) amplitude. Pertaining to this paradox in Biberstein's work, Otto Neumaier wrote, in the catalogue of the exhibition A difícil travessia dos Alpes: "his work leads us to the limits of what we are to experience and, in doing that, brings to our minds the limits of soul as regards the possibility of experiencing the world - and itself".
It is within this field of possibilities that the title of the exhibition - circling the square - brings us back to one of the most important historical debates painting has developed as a reflection on itself, one that knows its origin in the first quarter of the 20th century. The square, a perfect form, present in the suprematist genesis of geometric abstraction is the transforming element that Biberstein inscribes in these paintings. Working like a magmatic cluster, they are now subjected to the internal tension that this form develops, sustained by equivalent diagonals.
Nevertheless, the title still holds a second relevant question, shaped by the artist's intent. The circle, another geometric form, is used as a metaphor for the siege of the quadrangular shape that Michael Biberstein chose to organize and regulate his painting. An action that translates the way the author thinks painting in the broad sense and, at the same time, the boundaries and tensions offered to us by his work as a painter.
João Silvério | November 2012
MICHAEL BIBERSTEIN was born in Solothurn, Switzerland, where he lived until 1964 when he moved to the US. There he finished his formal education, including an important year with David Sylvester at Swarthmore College, where he studied art history. As a painter he is self-taught. Biberstein has lived and worked in Portugal since 1978. Michael Biberstein's work is included in the following public and pivate collections: Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, UK; CAM - Centro de Arte Contemporânea da Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon, Portugal; Colecção Caixa Geral de Depósitos, Lisbon, Portugal; CNAP - Centre National des arts plastiques, Ministère de la Culture Francese, Paris, France; Fundação Luso-Americana, Lisbon, Portugal; Fundação Serralves, Oporto, Portugal; Hess Art Collection, California, USA; Kunstmuseum Aarau, Aarau, Switzerland; Kunstmuseum Solothurn, Solothurn, Switzerland; Ludwig Forum für Neue Kunst, Aachen, Switzerland; Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain; Museu Colecção Berardo, Lisbon, Portugal; UniCredit Group Collection, Munich, Germany; Whitney Museum of American Art, NY, USA.
1 Michael Biberstein describes this perceptual contradiction has psychophysiological.