Franz Ackermann's monumental canvas Promotion no. I (2001) resembles an explosion of abstract imagery, but upon closer inspection, recognizable forms emerge from the kaleidoscopic composition. A futuristic cityscape towers over the spectator whose eye is drawn upwards, hypnotized by the whirling sky. Geometric constructions, some architectural, seem to detach from the skyline and gravitate towards the hypnodiscs center as if being sucked into a black hole. This is Ackermann's rendition of the contemporary metropolis, a soul-less, sharply defined but detached environment, the veneer of modernity and technological advances apparently alienating the ordinary man.
Obsessed with capturing the glancing light and the feeling of being caught in the middle of the rapid flux of city life, Ackermann works on an awesome scale, his complex compositions drawing the eye in upward spiral or sharply sideways or down below our feet. Referencing the Italian Futurists, in particular Giacomo Balla and his representations of mechanical movement and speed in space, as in Abstract Speed + Sound, Ackermannn's practice remains a more personal endeavor. Less Baudelairean flâneur than accomplished world traveller, Ackermann draws the content of his work from his experiences scouring the urban landscapes of Europe, Asia, and South America. His artistic process began in the early 1990s when, during an extended stay in Hong Kong, he drew his first mental maps, as the artist himself refers to his works, and took his first photographs of the booming and rapidly modernising Asian city. Back in his studio having digested the concoction of images, Ackermann creates paintings which lie on the cusp of abstraction and figuration.
A Berlin resident for many years, Ackermann has been acutely aware of that capitals ever-changing social, political, and physical landscape. Since the fall of the Wall in 1989 and the subsequent reunification of the nation, both Berlin and Germany have encountered an extraordinary rash of construction, cultural re-alignment and fluctuating economic fortunes. Unlike the fact-based precision of traditional street maps, Franz Ackermann's mental maps express sensations, impressions, atmospheres, predictions, and prophecies of a locale or geographical area. With their rich, loud colored surfaces, and the quasi-verisimilitude of architectural views and skewed perspectives, they serve as rich storehouses for experiences gained on his travels and fantastical painterly feats.