___ When artists speak retrospectively about their own work, they often come to realize that there are phases in their oeuvre whose story had at some point come to an end. For Wolfram Ullrich, the folds are an example of that: with their transfer to the three-dimensional at Schloss Monrepos, they reached their apex but at the same time their endpoint. It is interesting that at such turning points one not infrequently returns to where one had begun.
___ So it was with Wolfram Ullrich as well: after turning to space, he returned his works to the wall. Rather than having one paint run across the entire metal surface of an object and its creases, as he had until then, now he applied it, analogously to classical painting, to his newly created volumes. More precisely: to the slanted but nonetheless planar surfaces found there. All the methods and insights he had gained in the meantime flowed into this new creative phase. The cut, the split, the fold thus turned out to be the preparation for and basis of the group for which Wolfram Ullrich is now famous, namely the colour-intensive polyhedrons that emerge spatially out of the construction and thereby seemingly glide into the wall, which viewers approach with fascination no matter whether they are remote from or interested in art.
___ Wolfram Ullrich seeks to put planes of colour in position. But just because they – the colours – are applied to planes in these works, it does not mean that the works hang flat on the wall. The accentuation with colour is anchored in the context of a multidimensional volume of steel; it takes the stiffness and heaviness out of the material. That has something of the “trickery” of his folded works. But rather than creasing, he separates. The joining results not from folding but rather from stacking an overall form in several component parts. In the process, at their borders Wolfram Ullrich deliberately employs what he tried out in his works of rust and wood: the edge. Unpainted, it introduces the aspect of perspective, which until this point he had hardly allowed at all. Previously, he had tried to avoid the illusionistic factor entirely and instead to trace everything back to the concrete. But precisely in departing from the strict boundaries of Concrete Art, he ultimately arrived at his own unmistakable formal language, which requires the edge, as it were. It functions as a hinge that transfers his works, both in actual and perspectival terms, into the third dimension, makes the metal in the artwork visible, and thus perfects the play of colour and material.
___ For viewers, all of that seems to be relatively uncomplicated. They believe they can identify both the colours and the forms quickly and unambiguously. But appearances are deceiving. The certainty that viewers briefly assume they can take for granted turns into uncertainty, at the latest when they change their position and hence their viewpoint. It increasingly becomes clear that the form they thought they could still see a moment ago in perspectival distortion is not on the wall at all and even changes with every different viewpoint. The composition of the thing and its appearance do not coincide. The colours likewise change depending on the observer’s standpoint. The form on the wall composed of several parts thus produces an image not of itself, but of something else. With his background in art and art history, Wolfram Ullrich thus translates an essential feature of classical painting into Concrete Art. The former always produces an image of something else. Concrete Art resists doing so, because it employs forms, colours, and materials not for representation but entirely for their own sake. So when a form that is actually found on the wall pretends to be a perspectival distortion of another one, it conceals an ironic wink at the history of painting. Such an impression is further heightened by another level of illusion. Usually, the works of Wolfram Ullrich avoid perspectival perfection entirely. The edges, angles, and borders do not converge on a (central) vanishing point. The mechanisms of visual laws, which at first glance we are certain we can recognize in the works, are cleverly undermined. Wolfram Ullrich’s art results from precisely calculated deviations, not from rigidly following rules.
___ With that he causes the scaffolding of a strict concept of Concrete Art to waver, one that refers to the strictly mathematical. Consequently, his wink refers to both classical and Concrete Art, as it were. In the end, viewers stand astonished for multiple reasons before the works of Wolfram Ullrich. The resulting uncertainty is highly productive. It keeps interest in art alive and formulates questions rather than easy answers.
Text: Dr. Theres Rohde