Rauch's work references historical themes, while simultaneously including a modern dystopia. The viewer as a result is left to grapple with a unified composition of disjointed themes. As Ríal Lussier states "The nature of the subject matter, the treatment of space, ruptures of scale and incongruity of certain motifs conspire to rivet our attention and destabilize us." ("Neo Rauch", Musíe d'art contemporain de Montríal, September, 2006)
As is typical of Rauch's work, the eerie Socialist discourse seems to prevail with men struggling, but over what, is not apparent. It is as if time has frozen, lockstep with the conflict in a hallucinatory landscape. Rauch uses the cross hatch of the fence, the trough stands, windmill and buildings to delineate the space, while obsessive yet whimsical repetitions of these diagonal forms also add to the tension building within the piece. He taunts with didactic cues, repeating word and colors. In this work, Tal (English: valley) is included in bold block letters on the trough begging for notice, pushing on the viewer a juxtaposition of two opposing figures.
Call it sardonic or absurdist, the artist wishes to consciously convey a space where the meaning and figures are not identifiable along normal paths. As he states "(my paintings) stop the viewer acting reasonably and suggest a possibility to leave the track of reason." (Neo Rauch with Eigen+Art, Berlin, "Paintings like I would want them to be") He conjures his figures from memory and puts them in situations born of personal memory or fantasy. These avatars then are Rauch's method of working through his internal, mental landscape. As the artist states "When I stand in front of a black canvas, it's as if I'm standing in front of a wall of fog I open various contamination chambers and remove a variety of material from the to temporarily store in the territories of my paintings." (Interview with Alison Gingeras, "Neo Rauch: A Peristaltic Filtration System in the River of Time," Flash Art, November/December 2002, p. 69)
Lussier states, "And if Kafka reflects the state of mind of early twentieth-century society, we may consider Rauch's paintings symptomatic of the prevailing mood in the early twentieth-first century." (Musíe d'art contemporain de Montríal, September, 2006) Observing Tal, we see clearly something that rejects the modern taxonomical obsession with zeitgeist and cultural currency while proposing something far more interesting.