Do you know the work of Peter Dreher?
I've seen his work at the auction previews over the last two or three years without thinking much of them.
Typically offered in small groups of five or less and tucked away in the most inauspicious of viewing conditions, I've found myself wondering what they were doing here.
It's a response compounded by the low estimates, a combination of factors that gives the impression that something's being offered from the bargain basement that nobody really cares about.
Well, he's in the current group show at White Cube, Bermondsey and it's a revelation.
Hundreds of these paintings are arranged both in a continuous, tightly spaced line around the outer walls and in two massive grids either side of the large centre wall in the big south gallery.
The actual painting isn't that remarkable but the overall effect of the installation is staggering.
Thoughts keep rolling into mind, when in the midst of the work, that are as unexpected as they are involuntary.
Above all else it's the image of endurance that resonates with experiences that seem to lie far outside the normal range of associations with art.
Although there are the art historical precedents they seem almost beside the point in terms of the works meaning.
It's the power of a dimunative, modest image, to explode with a richness of meaning that's out of all proportion to itself, when amplified through repetition. It's a feeling that seems to argue for the power of small gestures that's so uplifting. As if to say that the received idea that greatness and significant meaning only exists with large, declamatory spectacle, is all wrong, and that in fact it's the other way around.
And that personal freedom and responsibility comes from private meditation, not the adherence and identification with public displays of corporate manipulation.
It's also a powerful argument for contemplation as a principal of creativity especially when what pops into mind is the idea of through a glass darkly - "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror".
Looking and watching are positioned as a philosophical principal, mediated by the religious like devotion to the transubstantiation of perception into form.
Peter was born in 1932 and it's yet another example of how German art adopted American Pop, but applied it's example through a filter of moral and social anxiety, that roots it not in a critique of consumerism but rather as an extension of critical and philosophical thinking.

Simon Linke, 10.07.2019

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