Taken strictly from a frontal perspective and occupying the entire area, structures confront us in the photographs by Till Leeser that have the effect of abstract paintings. Jackson Pollock comes to mind, Franz Kline or Robert Motherwell – all representatives of Abstract Expressionism in America. This style has marked our understanding of abstract painting and characterized our benevolence toward it like hardly any other. It has become the byword of a subjective language in which shapeless stuttering and stammering, so to speak, seismographically delineate the tracks left by the soul and the unconscious. As particularly exemplified on Pollock’s huge canvasses, traces of the artist’s expressive gestures inscribe themselves: chaotically choreographed smears, blobs and splashes that he applied with sweeping movements. The buzzword of the hour is ‘automatism’, a method borrowed from the Surrealists in which continuous movements and a high speed are enacted to reach those regions of the unconscious where primal creativity was presumed to reside.
Till Leeser equally records traces of chaotic choreographies, however here their authors are unknown. What reveals itself as it works its way into the spatial depth is enhanced by the way he folds his selection of frame crops into the picture’s area, producing an equivalent to a canvas. Just like the traces left by painting are seen on the canvas, the photography displays elements borrowed from reality as if intrisically depicted upon the surface: The photographer ‘paints’ as it were with the camera directly onto the image-bearing medium like the painter on the canvas. By masking everything that might point to the origin of these structures, we perceive them as his ‘tracks’, an interpretation distinctly characterized by our perception of abstract gesticular painting. As a result their authorship is divided, so to speak: between the photographer who appropriates them for himself and ‘sets’ them directly onto the image-bearing medium, and the source from which they actually arose: walls, partitions, the flotsam and jetsam of civilization – and nature, time and again.
The nucleus of Leeser’s work is comprised of structures that he finds in all sorts of existing pictorial models and, in several of the groups of works, has even constructed himself. “Tender Buttons” are abstract compositions of colorful bottletops, “Assemblages” and “Compositions” things found which he combines – even figuratively looking – into constellations, and the series “Nature Morte” exhibits dead undergrowth which – similar to Pollock – he arranges to form abstract images covered with ‘actional’ tracks. To enable distance to be maintained to the objects and a perception of structures beyond their depiction in object form, Leeser also frequently treats these things – alongside the strict frontality and planar nature – via the reverse side of seeing, via the shadows they cast – as in “Shadows” and “Chinese Shadows” – or, as in “Flowers”, via out-of-focus blurring as a further means of disassociation. In “Messages”, Leeser already finds the disassociative process of abstractional distancing in an existing state: The series shows Chinese wall newspapers which are often painted over during the night in an act of ‘sabotage’ or censorship. For their part, the man-made news bulletins, still present despite the traces of effacement, take on the abstract forms of large-scale paintings.
Leeser’s perception borrows from chaos as an initial starting point, though this is never simply by chance: it possesses an inner order of its own, its own index of reference. “Fraktale” is the title of a series of photographs that arose in junkyards. Like Georg Baselitz, he turns the pictures upside down in order to open up the possibility of an abstract way of looking at always identical machine parts whose repetition – much like the title-lending geometric fractals – establishes their self-similarity. A downright entropic structure is also exhibited by the series “Squash” and “Tracks”, yet the relatively evenly distributed traces of squash balls, bicycle tires and skateboards still hang on to a kind of ‘inner rhythm’. This inner rhythm, the order within chaos that Leeser registers in all structures, is where the blueprint for the world is shown. Especially in the structures found in nature that he has photographed time and again, here is where his creative systematology reveals itself: As in “7 Trees”, where the branches and twigs differentiate themselves ever-further from one another while replicating their own large forms on a smaller scale. Or in “Lotus”, where the plants are reflected in the water like written characters for creation itself, enabling the ancients to read in the “Book of Nature” at a time when natural science didn’t even exist yet. Although, to this day chaos theory, entropy and stochastics have not taken any of the magic away from the randomness of chance presaged in the rhythmic chaos of creative power, that of the cosmos and that of the artist. The descent into the unconscious and the ascent into the universal – as creative godfathers, both bear witness to the randomness to beget. Regardless of whether drawn from within and brought to a canvas or discovered in the world through the eye of a camera.