The truth in realism and fantasticism

By Dr. Amelie Himmel          
Translated from German by Steve Tomlin

The oeuvre of Michael Engelhardt is not something open, something that can be augmented by the viewer in arbitrary associations. Rather, the fantasy of the viewer is guided, digressions prevented, chains of association set up, since all elements are connected to one another, however questionable any concrete interpretation is. The mysteriousness always remains inherent, however. Unaccountable shadows, dissipating, translucent materiality, an inexplicable coming together of things, which all stand out through their own qualities, allow a mystic atmosphere to emerge. The distinction of things, whether this is through an excellent positioning or conspicuous colouring, points just as much to something enigmatic as the change in perspective that keeps on being demanded between the detail view and the overall view.

It is striking that the artist uses a kind of vocabulary. He keeps on rearranging the things that he knows well, creating ever changing relationships between them. The artist alone reserves the right to symbolically make these things accessible. In this respect all the works of Engelhardt are masterpieces, singular and unique perspectives of the world, which although they may contain a critical view of reality, do not provoke criticism. Instead it becomes possible for the viewer, by imitating the perspective of the artist, to become a 'seer’ in a similar way to him. Engelhardt concentrates in his pictures less on the “seeing“, and more on the “showing“, the “making aware“. In accordance with this concept from Leibniz's culture of cognition, Engelhardt searches out the macrocosm hidden in the microcosm.

Realism and fantasticism, an agglomerate, the penetration of both worlds of perception, is of the essence for Engelhardt. It is the truth that he wants to represent. Engelhardt is not interested in his pictures being understood with the help of previous iconographic knowledge. He counters knowledge of mythologies, history or religion with optically sensual qualities which in general allow the mystical alone to be felt behind everything. The imagination with Engelhardt is tested and challenged by everyday things and everyday landscapes. He is not interested in a photographic recording of reality that is as inclusive as possible, in which even the unseen, what is fleetingly and not really perceived at a certain point in time seems to be frozen. Instead he demands from himself as an artist to move from the reproduction to reality in the sense of truth. As well as all concrete things, this includes the mystical, the fantastic, everything emotional, everything suggestive.

(Dr. Amelie Himmel is an art historian)