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Peter Baldinger - Interface

Category: Portrait 22. October 2010

It is often said that every portrait is a self-portrait of the painter in a sense and every painter is painting himself – Peter Baldingers portraits show the presence of the absent.

How to produce a portrait, are there any certain possibilities of concretion or is it the mere flow of speculations? Every human constructs himself with words, by what he says and what he says about himself. The self-narrative of a human is all we have to assemble him as a whole. The individual attains his existence through his self-description, namely when he claims the copyright on his history and image. Within the configuration of identity we have to forge our own self or to try so, for better or for worse. Things happen, contingencies, by means of which we have to create our ego and we are constantly at it, with more or less success.
Even though Peter Baldinger's imagery is full of disappearing identities in the process of drifting off, the intent of communicating with the viewer permeates his work.

The subjects are defaced; they are masked and hidden bodies, but nevertheless expressing themselves. Nothing is being said but everything is told. There is nothing but the presence which tells everything. The body does not exist as place or refuge guaranteeing the idea of the self, but the opposite, the place where the self is challenged or made to disappear. The identity and the values being regarded as constitutive for the body and appearance of the human being are reconstructed and its boundaries transcended, transformed and re-established; the reflective and slick surfaces in Baldinger’s work refer us to the imaginary, to Lacan’s mirror stage. Something meant to remain veiled is becoming manifest, as a reflection on the pictures’ surface, where the Other, the alter ego is inscribed. The psyche, experimenting with itself, dissolves into its parts and turns out to be nothing, an indifferent surface, a silhouette without a story or text. We are encountering mere shapes, refusing any dialogue or contact with the viewer.

Baldinger asks what is to be found behind the appearance. His way of veiling and distorting the portrayed is the intent to approximate the essence of the person, by omission of a conventional feature of the portrait - the recognizable face. The negation of pictorial consistency and constancy allows him to disengage himself of the outward appearance. The emptiness within which existence is constructed becomes the accident generating the image.

At this point something emerges – the faces, portraits of friends, strangers, people. Within the tradition of painting, the portrait is a genre involving an emblematic, symbolic function: Expressing the social status of the person. Baldinger however alludes to the person’s core by disguise, distortion and digression. Within this gesture of erasure and defamiliarization where the presence is seemingly disintegrated, he still preserves traits referring to the person.

Without historical context a picture can mean anything, when we see the face of a person we never know what he/she thinks, except when the context of the facial expression is explained, as in a caption. The ambiguity surrounding the picture is transformed into information by means of a text. Subjectivity is lost, man has nothing left to interpret, and reality is spoon-fed to him in form of seemingly real images. Visual information does no more incite reflection, as everything can be illustrated with pictures.

In Baldingers work the stability of the image is distorted, the habits of the gaze mocked, the conventions of the classical portrait avoided. Individuality is a mere simulation, in a processual image where the human face is on the verge of disappearance - just at the boundaries of recognizability, where multiple possibilities of interpretation emerge. In this very moment of contradiction the process of portrayal is under scrutiny. (ca)

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