Site, for Lothar Götz, is a complicated thing. Made up of actualities, and of institutional and discursive elements, it is built from past and future places: where we have been and where we are going, if only in the imagination. It is fitting then that this exhibition should be installed in a railway station with its greetings and farewells, hopes and disappointments. Fitting also that it melds together a northern town, and thoughts of a 1985 film, White Nights, with Mikhail Baryshnikov pirouetting through issues of identity, place and belonging.
At Platform A in Middlesbrough, White Nights is the latest in a series of exhibitions by international artists that reflect the gallery’s twin focus – outwards and inwards. Here, both scales of Götz’ practice are represented: the public colour-saturated wall painting that plays with architectural space and the people that inhabit it; and the more intimate geometric drawings made in the artist’s studio and in hotel bedrooms across Europe.
Dominating the gallery is the site-specific painting, Reflection (2014), which covers the far wall, and responds to the steel frame of the space by tilting its axis to the diagonal. It cuts through doors, skirting boards, and the viewer’s sense of reality. Its lines are reminiscent of Russian Constructivism and yet its colours draw on more recent concerns – the atmosphere in the gallery and the facades of neighbouring buildings, visible through the large windows. Squinting at it, it appears as a spinning flowerbed or a high-chroma Battenburg cake. It is a hybrid composition, a retro-confection.
Reflection holds a dialogue with smaller works, such as the nearby drawing, The Line of Beauty (2013), whose straight lines of desire, drawn in coloured pencil between points on acrylic-painted wood, criss-cross and cross again to create shimmering colour fields. Similiarly, in Yellow Attack (2011, coloured pencil and gouache on paper), yellow wedges appear to launch an attack from the periphery on other more centrally placed diamonds of colour. The works are in an active state. However, perhaps it is the twin drawings hung in the gallery entrance, White Nights (Pink) and (Yellow) (2012-14), that draw together issues of colour and scale most coherently. Their juxtaposed black and bright urban colour resembles smashed screens or mirrors on which images can now only be viewed in the imagination. They are fragments, and we attempt to piece them together,
Middlesbrough audiences are familiar with Lothar Götz’ work through his beautiful drawings, Houses for Bauhaus Masters, in the group show Language of Vision (2007) during the early years of Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (mima). It is therefore satisfying to see that White Nights, his first solo show in the town, explores more fully how real and imaginary people relate to domestic and public spaces, and how Götz’ practice juxtaposes analysis and intuition.
Works are courtesy of the artist, Petra Rinck Gallery, Düsseldorf, and Domo Baal, London.
Annie O’Donnell is an artist based on Teesside.