Marco J. Bodenstein
Homage to Christian Peschke
This publication under the patronage of the European Cultural Foundation is also a homage to the artist Christian Peschke. Peschke, a sculptor and painter, is a creative all-round talent. He is rightly considered to be one of the foremost exponents of 20th-century modern art together with George Braque, Jean Cocteau, Marc Chagall, Henry Matisse, Pablo Picasso and others.
It was his awareness of the sensuality in the works of Rodin, Maillol and Despiau and his high esteem for the work of his artistic friends Salvador Dalí and Arno Breker that helped Peschke create his own formal world in sculpture and painting. His artistic handwriting is unmistakable, and his talent is evident in all his works. His art is thus of a uniqueness that secures him a place in the pantheon of the greatest sculptors and painters of all time.
This also makes it clear why Dalí and Breker treated the young Peschke with such respect during their meetings. Peschke himself saw this experience as an encouragement to make his own contribution to the Western, Christian cultural tradition. The round forms of his sculptures and the vitality of his reliefs and paintings express joie de vivre, a love of sensuality and of the mythological Demeter ((Δημήτηρ, Δήμητρα, Δηώ)r. The mother-goddess represents the fertility of the earth and, in our age, symbolizes preservation of the environment and of the creative force.
Christian Peschke raises his powerfully symbolic representation of the Female to a sacred, altar-like status. His "fat ladies" seem to defy all laws of gravity and float across the ground. They often balance gracefully on their pedestals and can be admired from all angles. The same applies to his animal sculptures: they display vitality, force, sensuality and beauty. This is especially admirable in the rendition of the white bull into which, according to mythology, the father of the gods Zeus transformed himself in order to abduct the beautiful Europa and take her to Crete.
There's no doubt about it: With his passionate artistic work as a sculptor and painter, his visions and his talents, Christian Peschke is a worthy representative of European art in the 21st century.
Berlin 2007 Marco J. Bodenstein
Prof. Dr. Theo Reim
Reflections by Prof. Dr. Theo Reim
Christian Peschke was born in 1946 in Säckingen, grew up in Stuttgart, studied with Professor Gollwitzer and lives and works today in Italy.
His sculptures require a special and unique kind of perception and understanding. He is interested not in the individual but in the archetype as a symbol of the life-giving force of the body, which radiates warmth and security. The harmony of his figures derives from the balance between movement and stillness. In his sculptures he seeks connection with the round, with the generosity of fullness.
The material (marble/bronze) is not dissolved in clothing, folds and draperies but always remains alive and three-dimensional. In a consistently executed process of abstraction, Christian Peschke succeeds in dematerializing clothing without depriving the figure of any of its dignity or drama – on the contrary, it solidifies into an expression of general validity. He turns moments of movement into an interplay of light and shade that can be seen and touched as a unity before us, and delights us. The figures occupying and determining the space in the paintings cannot tolerate any background: their aim is to be placed at the centre between heaven and earth, and they fill it with life because they belong to the earth entirely.
Peschke's sculptures radiate beauty, without sound or pathos; their beauty derives from their round fullness and completeness. The poetic shape offers us the key to understanding the beautiful, and awakens the correct inner sensitivity in the beholder – an encounter with that special harmony of emotion and intellect that one finds in whatever is truly beautiful.
Everyone can find themselves in Peschke's figures, because the sculptor givs them some of that pure form that exists as a yearning within every soul that has access to the realm of the eternally true and eternally whole.
With his work, Christian Peschke wants to give us a sense for, and a sensitivity for what is essentially human – and that is something not every artist can provide, because we live in an age of sharp edges, corners and obstructions and are all the more in need of being united in roundness.
With the many-faceted aspects of his oeuvre, this sculptor and painter leads us back once more to a positive experience of art.
"In what one does, one should endeavour to make positive feeling and positive emotion visible to others," is how Christian Peschke explains his intention. In an age of ever more involved abstraction, he wants his figures to create a feeling of harmony with the environment and with oneself that can be subjectively and intensely experienced.
For Christian Peschke, experiencing art means to employ all one's senses to comprehend the relationship between content, form and material.
Dr. Helmut Bachmaier
zu Elan Vital
Christian Peschke is an artist whose work lends unique shape and colour to life itself. Vitality and love of life play a foremost role in both the inspiration and the message of his art. In addition, emotions are expressed through the language of colour:
Feelings are lent special significance through colours.
He transforms emotionality directly into an interplay of different colours, making the different chromatic areas appear to vibrate with sensitivity. What he is ultimately creating in these paintings and sculptures is the élan vital itself.
The élan vital is the primeval creative force that controls all of life's processes.
The whole cosmos contains an indomitable urge to live, and life itself is creative activity. It cannot be explained with ideas – it can only be apprehended through intuition. This concept of an élan vital dates back to the French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859 – 1941).
Life is thus something that flows, untameable, a powerful current and an unregulated urge. To prevent this primeval force from dissipating, or from being pulverized in chaos, it requires form and shape. And that is the task of art – namely, to create order for life.
Life being given order through art – the work of Christian Peschke is devoted to precisely that.
As a result, his paintings are more to be directly experienced than intellectually pondered over. They address the emotions, and the colours give the onlooker a feeling of well-being. The same well-being that Peschke repeatedly achieves in his work. This is probably because his oeuvre is predominantly representational and three-dimensional rather than abstract and amorphous. In all his paintings one notices that figures and things are surrounded by firm contours that prevent them from dissolution.
This results in three-dimensionality and an impressive presence of thing and figure. The outlines and the sculptural effect are enhanced still further by the picture frames, which for Christian Peschke are always an important component of any work of art. His entire oeuvre is like a huge memory in which traces of life are recorded and preserved – a living memory that speaks to us and that introduces us to the beauties of life.
The return of the corporeal and the concrete is perfected in the art of Christian Peschke. He does all he can to stop the real being devoured by abstraction. His artistic consciousness is geared towards the representational or towards that which he essentially experiences. Here he does not fall back on details or even photographic realism, instead artistically wanting a re-action, a re-creation of objects and bodies. Far from being a reproduction aesthetic, his fundamental aesthetic concept is that of re-creating and reviving primeval forms and entities.
Here he completely isolates his art objects – the objects in his work – from any purpose or utility. The artist sees himself as a person who re-invents the world, places things in a new light and people in a new environment. This kind of reality does not present us with a "perfect world" but with a world that is open to joy, and is not ruled by suffering.
The artist should support the totality of the senses, the appeal to all emotions. And in this regard, Christian Peschke is a fanatic where the art of perception is concerned. The eyes should learn to see and the hands and skin should learn to feel. His sculptures are not only there to be seen but need to be touched as well, so that the material and the surface – the skin – of the stone can be felt. This art wants to be touched and explored with the hands and fingers: the fullness of the world should be discovered with the fullness of perception because, as Merleau-Ponty put it, the world is that which we perceive.
With Peschke, sensitivity and attraction belong together in order to create an overall impression. The magnificence and shine of the colours complete the overall impression and fullness of perception. As far as that is concerned, art is always a festival of the senses with Peschke, a celebration of joy. This happy experience of art is created by the stimulus to our senses, which are activated, come alive, open up and participate in the world of art. Art as an art of perception, an explosion of the senses and as an encounter with a new reality that can be seen and felt – this is all combined in the work of Christian Peschke, and gives his work its special aura.
One of his favourite motifs is the human, and especially the female, body. His nudes and similar sculptures are the best reflection of his aesthetic. In his "Also Sprach Zarathustra", Nietzsche wrote a diatribe against the "despisers of the body": "The human body is great common sense, a multiplicity with a single sense, a war and a peace, a herd and a herdsman."
Christian Peschke often geometrizes human bodies, thus drawing attention to anatomical disproportions. He dismembers and combines body surfaces, or segments them. In this way he creates new bodies, where the belly, thighs or sexual organs are especially emphasized. Welling, luxuriant flesh often lends a sensual edge to the baroque fullness of the body. The surface of the skin comes across as blotchy, used and "lived in". It is never the ascetic body, never the emaciated body deprived of life that we see – instead we see powerful bodies that are full of the power of life, the power of woman. The bodies are often intertwined in an embrace, creating an interplay of arms and legs; at other times the naked bodies are slumped down in a meditative, introverted posture.
The outer mark of identity of an individual is his or her face. Christian Peschke robs his figures of their faces: he de-individualizes and schematizes the face, while at the same time individualizing the body. Instead of a physiognomy of the face we here have a physiognomy of the body. To Peschke the human body is something entire, sensible, an individual truth and an entity filled with life. In In this body-art the senses and nerves, the skin and the arms – i.e. that which feels and that which touches – the thighs and the belly – i.e. that which opens and that which conceals – the back and the lap – i.e. the three-dimensional and the hidden – are hinted at and presented for discreet observation.
Circular and spherical shapes are seen as symbolic of perfection. The sphairos, or sphere, was the quintessence of perfection in Antiquity. These shapes have no beginning or end; both are either connected or intertwined. Life and the flow of life, the streaming and the flowing, brook no angles and no rough areas, only the softness of the round. Moreover, all organic forms are rounded – including this planet and the human body. Christian Peschke thus makes all his figures – oval and semicircular alike – exceptionally rounded. In addition his sculptures are lent dynamism by one bodyline in the shape of an S that runs from top to bottom, emphasizing the angle of the body and stressing its contours.
Rounded bodies, oval bellies and sculptural bodylines are all part of the specific artistic signature of Christian Peschke.
With this repertoire of forms, his objective is to demonstrate the perfection of a human body, its multiplicity, unity and natural beauty. In an age when the thin and ascetic body is being glorified as ideal by advertising, his nudes and female figures are an aesthetic counter-creation – and they also have history on their side, for the great masters including Rubens and Matisse paid special attention to the roundness of the human body and strongly emphasized physical presence.
In the art of Christian Peschke female figures are symbolic in several ways: as the primeval earth-mother behind all life and existence, woman occupies a central position in the cosmos. Qualities ascribed to her include strength, power, passion, vitality and common sense, and she preserves these for the good of humanity. The female is also the objective of the great explorers: Odysseus, Faust or Peer Gynt all return to the refuge provided by woman. In history, the female has often been robbed of its authenticity and damaged, either by being idealised and worshipped as something sublime (woman as goddess) or by being degraded into a mere object (woman as prostitute).
In Peschke's art, the female body is celebrated – woman and the female are worshipped through the medium of art. This is one of the painter's great passions.
In Plato's "Symposium", the highest form of Eros is the union of the beautiful and the good, which arises from itself. Eros is seen as the powerful attraction between two halves – male and female – which once formed a whole and have now been uprooted. The effects of Eros are the desire for union and attraction, for fusion and desire. In his paintings, Christian Peschke provides us with images of the vitality of Eros, and of its power to break down all barriers. These transgressions are an essential part of Eros and need to be contained and constrained by the artistic process. Peschke's erotic art derives much of its intensity from this interplay between transgression and limitation.
Christian Peschke orients himself towards nature, Mother Nature, who for him is both an ancient symbol and a life reality. The elements – fire, water, earth and air – correspond to the different temperaments of humanity. The mixture of the elemental and the temperamental runs like a thread through his paintings. As far as nature is concerned, he wants it to be left intact as far as possible, because man himself is after all a part of nature. If he submits to nature then he submits to himself. He wants to avoid this fatal dialectic of enlightenment by relying on the unleashing of the elemental and the temperamental. This results in a liberation that is only possible in a nature-related depth of intense experience. Ecstasy, exhilaration and passion are fundamental experiences without which any human nature would be crippled.
Christian Peschke is thus an apologist for an elemental sensuality - in art as well as in life. The shapes of desire and lust are made concrete in his female figures and nudes.