"I regard the process of painting as an extraordinarily natural process, a form of understanding the world very close to breathing, which is mainly unintentional on the exterior and which basically limits itself to the process of the concentrated flow. I am purposely neglecting to take all catalytic influences into consideration which could be in the position to make the occurrence lose its innocence."(N. Rauch quoted in Neo Rauch: Neue Rollen, Paintings 1993-2006, exh. cat., Kunstmuseum, Wolfsburg, 2006-2007, p. 96.)
Neo Rauch's career has been fiercely dedicated to painting and his medium is heavily influenced by his background. Born in 1960 in Leipzig, then East Germany, Rauch is part of a generation of artists who came of age in a war-torn, divided country. While his older East German peers, including Georg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer, Sigmar Polke, and Gerhard Richter, emigrated to the West during the Cold War, Rauch spent his youth in the Eastern Bloc and received his arts education at the Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig. Following the fall of the collapse of the communist regime, Rauch has been the leader of a groundbreaking group of artists, who emerged after the fall of the Berlin Wall with a new painterly vocabulary which amalgamated their Communist training in the East with their exposure to the culture of Capitalism.
In the present lot, Neo Rauch has once again transported the viewer to a space that hovers between reality and mythology. At first glance, it seems that the two figures are preoccupied with a mundane activity, but upon closer inspection one begins to take in the small, but notable, details. The squatting figure, though outfitted with the head of a man, has the hind quarters of an animal; is he a satyr then? One might connect this kind of character with Greek mythology or Shakespearean theatre, yet the artist leaves us in a time that is undefined as well. The dress of both is certainly not present day, but it fails to place the viewer in the correct era. What is even more perplexing is the formal quality of the garments. They are brightly colored, rich and velvety and not appropriate for those who are Beerenplfücker or berry pickers. With the movements of Realism and Naturalism in mid through late 1800s, there became a tradition of presenting the individuals who worked the farms of the surrounding French countryside and it was pertinent that the details of these peasants' clothing and appearance were accurately depicted. For example, Gustave Courbet's The Stone Breakers (1849), immediately imposes upon the viewer an intense sense of back-breaking labor, heat and poverty. In Rauch's work, the berry picking taking place, normally left to a farm-hand, has developed into some kind of leisure activity. Furthermore, the time of day remains unknown. The sky is dark shades of ashen indigo, however slivers of light shine through-is it twilight? Or dawn?
Rauch has purposely delivered a painting full of ambiguities. Though the style is decisively figurative, his choice in subject and place create an abstract scene; one which is both timeless and contemporary and continues to question how we perceive our surroundings.