Painting with Light

December 3, 2016

The Frankfurt Weihnachtsmarkt simmers with Saturday afternoon tourists. Wafts of Chinese, French, Italian, and deep-fried American English mingle with the smell of blistering Bratwurst and mulling Glühwein.

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To snatch a breath of air I won’t have to share with a dozen others, I escape into Paulskirche. An artisan invasion has turned the church into a Künstlers Weihnachtsmarkt, an artist’s Christmas market. A rabbit’s warren of white-walled stalls sprawl out under the vaulted ceiling. The vaulting’s red veins look biblically provocative against the pallid plaster. Iconography from a hundred cults of beauty gleams in glass vitrines and varnished frames. Paul’s church has been transformed into a temple of Aesthetica.

Though winter prowls the alleys outside, immortal summer casts a halo of sunshine over Karl Dudek’s corner of the church. I pause beside his summer meadow, and soon the weeds are creeping up my legs, inquisitive vines twine through my hair, a honeysuckle breezes brushes by my cheek, and I can hear the breathy whisper of willows. This Summerland tells every secret shade of gold-green: cinquefoil, spring sedge, larkspur, mignonette, periwinkle, speedwell, helleborine, salsify, yarrow, musk mallow, wild angelica, chamomile, yellow columbine, celandine, fairy slipper, harebell, yellow asphodel, valerian, Queen Anne’s lace, clematis, feverfew, teasel, ghost orchid, eyebright, gentian, and saxifrage. The moment is drenched in summer, sunlight sifting through the willow leaves, dripping down every dandelion stem. Light evaporates into a haze that languishes on the meadow’s horizon. Innocent and dangerous as a sleepwalker, it leads me deeper into the canvas, to the vanishing point from which I will never return.

Karl Dudek

Eventually I extract myself from the Summerlands and wander back through the labyrinth of canvases and jeweler’s cases. A glimpse of canvas knotted with light lassoes me. It reels me in and I find myself in a familiar realm. Tasuku Aoyama’s paintings seem to come from the world where I write. In that Elsewhere, light and dark are rare textiles we can run through our fingers. We blow light like Venetian glass and wrap ourselves in cashmere darkness. The painter’s characters play with these ephemeral skeins, shaping light and dark into half-remembered hieroglyphs.

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