___ The window has accompanied Wolfram Ullrich as a theme in all decades of his artistic output – both as a painter and as a sculptor. He began in the 1980s with his first window drawings, executed with a broad brush, in oil on paper. As such he made use not only of the tools and materials of classical painting, but at the same time of one of its preferred themes. Indeed, the window is among the most central topics ever addressed in art.
___ This trend saw its heyday during the age of Romanticism, when it was stylized as a motif of longing par excellence. Yet even back then it was far more than a popular, let alone arbitrary theme. It represented not least an artistic method, a device, for reflecting one’s own actions. To this day the window remains a symbol of framing, visual focus, and transparency. It directs a gaze onto the world in a certain way. It represents a “visual concentration by means of framed perception”. It symbolically visualizes that which painting per se fosters, not just in its classical sense. Even when, in the early 20th century, the artistic representation of the window was fundamentally reconsidered and the theme of the view lost ever more significance, avant-garde artists such as Robert Delaunay, Henri Matisse and Marcel Duchamp did not abandon the motif in order to reformulate their visual ideas and fundamentally revise what for them constituted an image. The Modernists may have broken with the visual concepts of classical painting, but they tried out the new notions by addressing old motifs anew. “Thanks to its planarity, its frame, its grid-like inner structure and its transparency, it is in almost unprecedented fashion predestined for the fundamental reflection on the image and the process of seeing.”
___ Thus it is by no means unusual that in his early work Wolfram Ullrich too, the groundwork laid by his exploration of the split, made the window his motif. Yet he did not stop there. The artist, who would soon aspire to be not just a painter, but also a sculptor, transferred the motif of the theme from the planar surface into the three-dimensional space. With his Windows, which in 1990 he had suspended freely floating from the ceiling at Fondation Vasarely in Aix-en-Provence and at Kunstraum Göppingen, for example, he addresses the architectural character of the window more strongly than any two-dimensional painting is able to. A window as an opening in the wall of a building is always an object of the third dimension. It enables views inward, outward and through, it links inside and outside, only to separate them at the same time. Throughout his life, Wolfram Ullrich has pursued the relationship between inside and outside. Yet as his works discussed thus far demonstrate, he does not accept this strict separation, but investigates how both can intertwine. In this way, his purely sculptural windows defy the rules of a conventional one. Whereas a window may be an opening, it does not, like a door, grant passage. Climbing through it would constitute abnormal behaviour. The observer can view what is on the other side of the window, but generally not reach it. This is not the case in Wolfram Ullrich’s works. Neither do his Windows display the typical present-day right-angled form, nor are the wall sections surrounding them of such dimensions that they cannot be walked around. They are generally less like a wall and more like a frame and are thus, despite their sculptural character, images through and through. As such, amazingly, they do not behave fundamentally differently from architecture, for that is precisely what windows also do in the architectural context: They are image-generating media that open up visual impressions which would not exist without them.
Text: Theres Rohde