Stefan Müller – Solo show – August 2021
Mixing a lover’s love
Stefan Müller’s artistic journey is one that is not defined by works in series. In his embrace of his own enduring uncertainty, the products of Müller decisions impart something extremely human. For him, each painting requires a perpetual new encounter with the medium and its fixed surfaces.
The resulting works are both direct and constantly shifting with the thrust of the greatest possible freedom tied to an inner necessity that manifests in a unique approach, brought about by continually confronting his paintings anew. While much of his earlier working method was characterized by a certain reduction, these new paintings are notable for their complexity and painterliness, colors and finger marks that shoot through the smeared backgrounds of black and white.
Without any didactic or narrative impulse, he responds to each painting with equal parts restraint and intuition composing each work from a particular emotional state, much like a DJ at the mixing board, reacting to the dancers; or, like a lover composing a mixtape for his beloved. The analogy is a fitting one, as Müller found his way to fine arts through playing and recording music.
Overlapping traces of paint create a multi-layered surface, granting us access to the beguiling history of each work’s foundation, shimmering through, bring us back again and again to their construction.
The titling of the paintings also contributes to this back-and-forth, where Müller labels the process a kind of “elation in stealing” as he constructs each work’s names from song titles and (mis-)remembered quotes. The origins come from his immediate environment, like that of music or poetry, which constantly buzz around in his head long before the painting process itself begins. The titles often include wordplays, often a result of chance by having misunderstood particular lines from a song that then end up as the name of a given painting.
These titles should not to be seen as a desire for narration, though, and certainly not as a possible explanation; rather, they provide an added layer to the painting – a new, ecstatic connection or commentary – a further scratch on the surface, marking a potential conclusion to the process. Thus, Campingsex, Driving all night, Das nächste 80s Revival wird die Welt einfrieren (The next 80s revival will freeze over the world), Es wird Wochen dauern mich an heute zu erinnern (It will take me weeks to remember today), Heartbreaks and Ashtrays and Es regnet Mascara (It’s raining mascara) delight in a mutually-inclusive game of circulating reference and emotion.
The pictorial ambiguity of the painted layers and the deliberate indeterminacy of the titles, engender an ability to readjust the focus of one’s own gaze, over and over again, absorbing momentary flickers of thought and color, questioning one’s own position and attitude in the process.
BIO / CV
Born 1971 in Frankfurt am Main / lives and works in Berlin
1996-2001 Städelschule Frankfurt / with Prof. Thomas Bayrle