With Rainer Fetting (*1949 in Wilhelmshaven), Galerie Wolfgang Jahn is presenting another main representative from the group of the "Junge / Neue Wilden“ (New Fauves), which formed in Berlin at the end of the 1970s and whose figurative painting is characterised by a free gestural application of colour that focuses on strong contrasts. Nevertheless, the art by Fetting, whose work has developed into individual expression over the decades, cannot be classified in too narrow categories.
The exhibition shows current paintings as well as some sculptures by Fetting, who as a sculptor also produced the larger-than-life Willy Brandt bronze for the SPD party’s national headquarters in Berlin. The artist's works are characterised by a haunting and noticeably devoted depiction of physicality. His full-figure portraits of his inner circle and companions are presented to the viewer with fleeting, unerringly placed brushstrokes in sometimes lasciviously sensual poses, so that ultimately the line between private insight and public representation becomes blurred in the picture. The bust portraits too, which repeatedly show the dancer Desmond Cadogan, the artist's long-time muse and model, are undisguised, emphatic character studies that, in their skilfully free execution, go beyond the pure image and concentrate on the essence and substance of the person portrayed. Again and again, Fetting relies on exciting colour contrasts, such as in the self-portrait titled "Speier der alten Leier" (2018) or "Desmond mit Hut" (2020). The dark tonality of these works can be seen as an expression of the serious thoughtfulness reflected in the faces intrinsic to these paintings, but is impressively contrasted in the representation of the hats by a gaudy blue or bright African colour pattern. Just as if the cheerfulness suggested by the colour factors were literally just superimposed.
In his works, Fetting also makes use of cinematic stylistic elements, for example, when he cuts his figures in "close up", thus giving the picture section, together with his cursory painting style suggesting image blurring, an additional immediacy and dynamic of the captured moment. In addition, the artist experiments with the shape of his canvases when he occasionally assembles two different formats into an unusually asymmetrical support.
The "Sylt" pictures sometimes show a different aspect of Fetting's work, as they differ from some of his other works in the way they are painted. The graceful wildness and brusqueness of these landscape depictions is less due to "vigorous" painting that relies on strong and exaggerated colour accents, but is primarily conveyed through the selection of the motif and its masterly rendition in tonal colours that are based on the reality. Stylistically and thematically, these pictures are reminiscent of Max Liebermann's bathing scenes from the late 19th century. In Fetting's work, it is fit surfers, swimmers, walkers or seagulls who are exposed to the elements and yet find themselves in harmony with nature in a rough North Sea landscape. Despite the joie de vivre that surfing brings with it, these works are characterised by a meditative calm of silent observation and are inspired by melancholy paired with the isolation of the places. Fetting's "Blauer Surfer" (2020), a graceful male figure viewed from behind on a moonlit beach, seems like a distant and individualised quotation from the pictorial worlds of the great romantic Caspar David Friedrich.
The bronzes, which play with the aesthetic appeal of the "non finito", are deliberately "coarse" and expressive in their execution and yet are unerring character portraits, which something archaic and therefore completely original, but at the same time fragile and shattered, is attached to in their appearance reminiscent of grotto formations.
Dr. Veit Ziegelmaier