Thomas Hauri
22 August – 4 October 2014

Watercolor is the art of transparency of a multilayered, material endeavor: every mark made with the brush and liquid paint on the radically open surface of the paper is visible and remains correctable only up to a certain point. The watercolor exerts a medium-specific pressure on the artist, which he is able to reduce, but never eliminate, through the application of certain methods. The practice of painting in watercolor is a kind of machinery to which the hand and mind of the artist are connected. Once it is set in motion, this machinery runs as if by itself, within the limitations of the physical possibilities. The focus of watercolor lies, it seems, in the interleaving of the sensibility of an active artist-subject and the given variability, or wealth of determining factors, of his complex medium: the external formality of the pigment dissolved in water which disperses autonomously over the paper.

Thomas Hauri deliberately constructs the profundity of his pictorial inventions, the majority of which refer to architectonic and industrial forms, out of the aforementioned specificity of the medium of watercolor. At the start of his work process he fixes sheets of paper to a canvas stretched over a frame, temporarily endowing the mobile surface of the sheet with a fixed, stable corporeality. The productive handling of the pigment (generally ivory black), well diluted in water, and the multiple rotating, standing up, and laying flat of the handmade paper fixed to the stretcher gives rise to those self-executing, organically expressive structures that are characteristic of the medium. Thomas Hauri reacts to the independent dynamic of watercolor with various altering, modifying interventions. By taping on various geometric forms, he sets limits to the progress of the colored water. Lighter zones are achieved through the process of washing out, and shading is achieved by applying additional, glaze-like layers. Hauri controls the rhythm of the watercolor’s development from light to dark in an associative manner, in such a way that the initial openness and indeterminacy of the white paper ultimately gives way to a focused geometric determinacy of illusionistic depth that contrasts starkly with the permanently visible traces of how it came into being.

In the nine works on show in the exhibition, the dialectic—apparently inherent to the work of Thomas Hauri—between the controlling, acting artist-subject and the autonomously dispersing pictorial medium contributes explicitly, in the sense described, to their appearance. On the one hand Thomas Hauri presents five works dating from 2013 and 2014 which, in terms of their pictorial language, self-consciously oscillate between the rational language of geometric, architectonic, and industrial forms and the autonomously dynamic and expressive language of the running, colored water. On the other hand he shows four more recent works, all created in 2014, which seem to be based less on the concept of the illusionistic depth of a pictorial space that opens up centrally/polyperspectivally, and more on a monochrome multilayering that is determined conceptually by the artist. Both the three entirely gray and one orange painting on show in the exhibition are based on the same sequence of different layers of paint clearly determined in advance. In their final form these works differ from one another thanks to the autonomy of their medium, all displaying a profound density that may ultimately remind viewers of the palimpsestic facades of urban industrial buildings. In this exhibition at Balts Projects Thomas Hauri shows nine works that are characteristic of his current artistic production, works whose visual qualities one could tentatively describe as an illusionism focused on production aesthetics.

Lorenz Wiederkehr, 2014