Time never stands still. It proceeds, unstoppably, second after second, drawing people with it in its wake. Taking a moment to pause seems impossible. You can feel this rush most of all in the urban space of big cities. But what happens if someone decides to take a break anyway, stands still, becomes attuned to the surrounding? The artwork created by André Lemmens achieves this and shows how valuable deceleration is. It comprises snapshots of urban life that seem frozen in time. They allow viewers to experience and relive their everyday surrounding in all its particularity.
Less is more
The artist creates an impression of depth by computer-based separation of photographic information. He first prints color information on one plexiglass panel and then black-and-white information on another panel before putting them together. Viewed at an angle, this creates an impression of spatial depth, with colors in the background and black silhouettes in the foreground. „I create an abstraction of the urban situation“, André Lemmens explains. „Reality is different from what I show in my work: In a real-life situation, people are often in the background. However, I draw them to the foreground by placing the black-and-white panel on top.”
One of his compositions, titled „Hamburg Hafen City“, shows how the configuration and delineation of architectural objects structures space. A group of five individuals is situated in the lower center of the image. They are represented as silhouettes, similar to the surrounding space. Through this act of reduction, Lemmens retraces the structure of the city. All of a sudden, parallels, symmetries and grids emerge in the viewer’s field of vision – design elements that are often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. André Lemmens’ interest in urban space isn’t accidental. The artist, 51 years of age, is actually an architect. „The whole art thing developed back when I studied architecture“, Lemmens explains. He owns an office in Kleve and studied at the Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences. The design-oriented courses there awakened a passion for art, and as a result, André Lemmens sees himself as both: architect and artist. In his case, one cannot exist without the other. He states that „there are parallels between my images and my work as an architect. What I do as an artist finds a way into my architecture: A certain feeling, spirit and depth that can be found in my art is also visible in my buildings. I’m sure of that.“
Hitting the pause button
He never intended to create photographs in a classical sense, they merely serve as the basis for the development of art. Even mobile phone pictures are sufficient for this approach. Should an appealing urban situation appear on TV, André Lemmens simply hits the pause button and takes a picture of the scene. „Hitting the pause button“ aptly paraphrases his artwork. It represents vibrant cities that suddenly stand still. Background sounds fade into silence, only static noise can be heard. This noise conveys the actual image by use of blur as a stylistic device. In some of his works Lemmens increases the impression of vagueness by covering the panels with a layer of white emulsion.
Social criticism, in a low voice
Lemmens emphasizes architectural structures and characteristics of urban space, for instance a significant element of a building, horizontal and vertical lines or colored surfaces. „The realistic image is often merely gray and ugly. By reducing it the way I do, something new and beautiful can emerge.“ Lemmens refrains from criticizing particular urban spaces. Rather, his point of view is: „I want to capture places at a particular moment in time. Places that people pass through every day without actually taking notice of them.“ By capturing these places, a situation receives a new meaning: „I assume a critical perspective in my work only indirectly.
People have such a short attention span, they hardly hold on to something – and hardly reflect on cities, places or architecture.“
Lemmens’ photographic work shows abstracted places and situations in New York as well as German cities such as Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart, Augsburg or Bremen. As Lemmens says, „along the way I developed a keen sense for particular situations or architecture, for diagonal lines, for surfaces, and for people.“ His photographic work matured in a way similar to his architecture: „with time, one’s work becomes richer in terms of density and experience. The houses that we are currently building are more mature than ten, twenty years ago.“ They appear more self-aware, possess a less ambiguous canon of forms, and have a signature quality.
Good things come to those who wait
Lemmens’ art develops within a process. Sometimes a project remains in a digital folder for a number of years, gains patina, until Lemmens blows away the dust and rediscovers something, sees something that he hadn’t noticed earlier. He quickly develops a feeling for an interesting aspect of a photo – not so much regarding the composition of the image, but rather how the photo changes over the course of time. Lemmens wasn’t always as confident about his work as he is today. “In the first fifteen years of creating art I worked myself to death. I never arrived at a point where I could have stopped searching for something, over and over again.” But this work in itself eventually became a source of tranquility. As the architect admits, “it relaxes my mind.” Without effort, observers can feel this sense of calm, making them pause for a moment. André Lemmens creates worthwhile moments of deceleration in turbulent times.
From May 10th to 13th the Kleve-based architect/artist’s works will be on display in Munich at the upcoming ARTMUC art fair.