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Loadings of terrestrial tension - Peter Gilles
Unfortunately, the relation of volcano and man and art has not been compiled since the 19th century. Consequently, it is the endeavor of VolcanismInTheArts to particularly track down recent eruptions and to introduce them to an interested public. That such a public really exists, becomes apparent from virtual seismographs in the form of statistical numbers of clicks. Therefore we inform our readership of the title eruption of the Städtischen Museums Leverkusen Schloss Morsbroich which had already occurred in 1994. In our opinion these extremely revolutionary works from the recent belong to the subject of volcanism in the arts, created by Peter Gilles, published in 1994 in the book Stromboli - 68 Selbstportraits 1991 (cover illustration on the right).

Joseph Wright of Derby's opus Vesuvius (1774/75), regarded as the first action painting, was painted at the erupting Vesuvius. In 1976 Andre Bucher began to create sculptures directly out of Etna's flowing lava. Since 1975 James Turrell is building his domicile into the crater of an extinct volcano (Roden Crater/Arizona) in due consideration of cosmic light constellation. And Peter Gilles climbed the Stromboli innumerable times since 1985. Not in order to paint the volcano, neither to work up the volcanic material, nor to build a house up there. No - he deliberately betook himself into close vicinity to self-assuring insecurity, he approached the active crater so closely because THIS was the only place where he wanted to measure the activities of both: in art.

What do I paint when I am, where I would not be without art? When warmth streams out of the soft ash soil, when I breathe in sulfur, in moments when I only hear eruptions and my sole protection is my will, to look for an image of myself - for a self-image, here and now?

Peter Gilles works experimentally with himself. Only shortly before the moment of his own irreversibility, he finds the completion of most of his works. May this be during the inflaming ecstasy of oxygen deficiency or oxygen surplus, during the making of his anthropometries (colored body prints on canvas) with his own blood, or while he is painting his 68 self-portraits at exactly THIS place of constant eruptive spirit - STROMboli.

It is great to watch an eruption from the Stromboli's peak because the distance between the volcanic outburst and myself seems to be large enough (even if there were already some deadly mistakes). This is the place where Gilles' first works were born, and from where he moved a little closer to the explosion of terrestrial tension each time he draw a new one. Using the eruptions and his knowledge about their intervals, Gilles moved as close as it is possible for a human being to the influences of the eruptions, with the aim to draw his self-portraits under mortal agony.

You did not have to be standing on the violently erupting Stromboli to find your sensitivities from situations of highest insecurity in Gilles' 68 self-portraits. However, the initially frightening effect is leading into the cultural power of the most possible encounter between human mind and volcanic phenomenon of nature, it transforms the book into a single inspiration.

We derived the imagery of the volcanic from volcanisms to describe eruptive, physical and spiritual intensities. Gilles' self-portraits are a revolutionary preoccupation within this projected relatedness of character and surely allow the question: Who actually painted who?

Author: Karawahn
Translation: Theresia Fasinski

working situation
"Die kritische Masse" 1987

1.050 x 350 cm)

Stromboli sequence 1985 (rechts),
Sequenz 1986 (links)
(Eigenblut-Autoanthropometrien, finished on Stromboli)

"Darstellung meiner Befindlichkeit anhand von assoziativ hergestellten Selbstportraits im Masstab 1:1 mit einfachen Mitteln: Zeichenpapier Din A3, Kohlestifte, Graphit und der Möglichkeit, in den Zeichnungsträger mit Rissen und Aufbrüchen einzugreifen" Abbildungen von No. 5 (l) und No. 60 (r), Stromboli 1991

All images are published Peter Gilles "Stromboli - 68 Selbstporträts"
© Städtisches Museum Leverkusen Schloss Morsbroich, Authors and Peter Gilles - 1994



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