Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art presents "Unification Theory, Part I", a selection of new paintings by Swiss painter Michael Biberstein.
October 27 to November 20, 2004 Opening Tuesday, October 26, 10 p.m. Tuesday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. Closed Monday
Michael Biberstein has indeed dissolved and shifted the attention of his work from landscape to the atmospheric. The selection of canvases, ranging from small scale to expansive renderings, comprise the show at Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art, convey a feeling of distance and sublime silence, in the wake of his most recent solo exhibition in Zurich, in September/October of 2004.
Although Michael Biberstein does not link the meaning of his work directly to their titles or the meaning of a selection of his works to the title of an exhibition, 'Unification Theory' does nevertheless play a role in shedding some light by suggesting one in many ways of regarding the artist's most recent work. Biberstein indeed has a love for art and philosophy which is matched by his affinity for physics and astronomy. The Theory of Everything, the (Real), in other words, the quest for a grand Unification Theory, began with Sir Isaac Newton. This theory ought to provide a blanket statement to describe all things known and unknown to man (in the entire universe). There are two main theories used to describe everything: general relativity, proposed by Einstein, which describes gravity as the result of curvature of space-time; and quantum mechanics, which describes force in terms of little packages. In order to bridge these two seminal theories, some physicists have developed new hypotheses: string theory, supersymmetry, the superstring theory and wave theory. The pursuit for a single, multi-disciplinary theory, capable of explaining every phenomenon in the universe, from a physical, biological and chemical standpoint, has also lured Michael Biberstein.
"I see paintings as «seeing machines». For me, the world only exists as a sequence of physical processes. This is not because I believe the world to be described to my full satisfaction based on the knowledge of the so far unveiled physical laws – unfortunately not. It is more the empirically extracted insight that our knowledge of a comprehensive theory of everything is not sufficient and probably never will be."
Summoning the words of Pseudo-Longrinos (1st century AD) once more:
Nature has set us humans…into the vast cosmos as into the scenery of an enormous feast; we are here to take cognizance of the whole and the most ambitious of contestants. She therefore instilled in our souls an insatiable desire for all that is great and more devine than ourselves
(in 'On Vernet, Lanscape, the Sublime and the Beautiful, and what Relevance they might still have to Contemporary Art, B&B publications, Lisbon).
Biberstein's "skyscapes", "atmospheres" or better yet, his "soulscapes" (Otto Niumaier), aren't a pure, simple view of Nature, nor a depiction of her qualities; they are, or can additionally be seen as "skyscapes"/"atmospheres" of the field of possibilities of the medium of painting. On the one hand, these works deal with the issue of scale, on the other, intuition as a legitimate process of knowledge. As Delfim Sardo states, "the centre of Michael Biberstein's recent work has thus been flexibility of distance, the policy of an epistemological freedom which does not require understanding as a normative phenomenon, and recovery of new subjectivities. It is therefore a question of giving up the search for correct distance (…) of giving up the opposition between inner and outer, between seeing and understanding". "Biberstein's paintings are less depictions than, more accurately, a projection screen for states of recognition and spiritual consciousness, in search of the basic laws of being, and possibly, even the transition to non-being" (Petr Nedoma, Galerie Rudolfinum, Prague, January 2002, in '…towards silence').
Biberstein has subtly rendered the shift from landscape to the atmospheric, the evanescent and dimly perceived – a tendency towards emptiness (and silence) – with colour by distancing the colouristic sensation away from its naturalistic origin, for his palette is rendered, rather than found in his use of the sfumato. These nebulaec paintings in acrylic "guide the eye into areas that do not allow for a static closing of space" (Celia Montolio), they elude form, area or concentration into a single space, rendering a shifting, inconclusive universe beyond the picture itself.
Michael Biberstein was born in Solothurn, Switzerland in 1948, where he lived until 1964. He then moved to the United States. There he finished his formal education, and studied art history with the late David Sylvester, one of the finest writers on art in the second half of the 20th century and a skilled exhibition maker, whose work enriched our understanding of Matisse, Picasso, Magritte, Giacometti, Henry Moore and Francis Bacon. Michael Biberstein is a self-taught painter. He lives and works in Portugal. His work has been extensively revised in enlightening essays, published in exhibition catalogues throughout his career.