More or less immediately I had to think of a painting by Henry Wabel, “Stilleben mit Kinderzeichnung.“ I remembered seeing this painting around 1969 in the collection of the Museum in my hometown. I was 18 or 19 years old at the time, and starting to think more and look more and more at art. Conceptual art was a new and fresh thing. So it was through the eyes of that momentum that I saw this painting – the idea of that painting as a conceptual art work. I was enthusiastic about it, about the thoughts I was seeing in it. Everything was there – a kind of appropriation art “avant la lettre,“ a readymade inside a painting, the question of authorship and on top of it the questionable phantom idea of the authentic. I was, as they say, “illuminated“ by this painting.
Time passed, I forgot about the painting and illumination was turning back into a dim bulb. I had to go back and do some research because I couldn’t even remember the name of the artist. During this little research, I stumbled across another painting, done a long time ago, like 500 years ago, by Giovanni Francesco Caroto.
Dear Kaspar, I am sure you will like that painting as much as I do.
One day, while spending an extended period of time together at home earlier this year, Kaspar Müller’s six-year-old daughter Katharina surprised him with a painting on a single square of white 3-ply toilet paper imprinted with a repeating pattern of butterflies and flowers. Perhaps it was the slowed down pace of this intimate time, or simply the innocence and curiosity of a child’s mind, but his daughter had infused new life into a quotidian element of industrial design. Using an array of oil crayons, she meticulously colored in the paper’s indented patterns, unlocking a crisp and bold design through a delicate, yet decisive intervention. What ensued was an inter-generational exchange through the medium of one of the most banal household staples.
Müller’s new paintings emerged from the positivity and beauty that his daughter’s own paintings found in a product that is ubiquitous, empty, and profane—and his work maintains the sublime fluffiness and luminosity of the original. He performatively re-enacted her works on a grand scale through various layers of technical intervention. The large-scale prints not only emphasized the embellished pattern, but also the object-like quality of the paper sheet, including at times tattered or lightly torn edges. Müller then performed another layer of intervention by painting atop the image of his daughter’s flowers with the same colors. Such a gesture brings about a moment where oil and digital patina meet in the fusion of an adult and a child’s approach to making.
In Kaspar Müller’s practice seemingly familiar objects somehow appear as hieroglyphs. A cast of everyday, yet nonetheless strangely hermetic motifs reappear throughout his oeuvre like vanished memories. Recoded, recalcitrant, and on first glance sometimes stubbornly mute, past works have ranged from physically tangible sculpture to shadowy reproductions of images. These paintings continue Müller‘s practice of working in recursive loops. By combining elements of pop and daily life, the works in Mandala hone in on the formal qualities of one of the most common objects used for personal care — transforming the industrial space of decorative pattern as a contemplative and expressive zone.