Frank Nitsche



Not on display

Frank Nitsche 1964
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 2006 × 1602 × 39 mm
Purchased using funds provided by the 2004 Outset / Frieze Art Fair Fund to benefit the Tate Collection 2005


Nitsche is one of a generation of painters who grew up in the former East Germany and came to prominence in the late 1990s and the early years of the twenty-first century. He studied at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Dresden, where he met and befriended fellow painters including Thomas Sheibitz (born 1968) and Eberhard Havekost (born 1967; see Ghost 1, 2004, Tate T11907 and Ghost 2, 2004, Tate T11908).

Nitsche produces large-scale abstract paintings characterised by strong draughtsmanship and a fluent use of colour. An inveterate collector, Nitsche gathers and collates images from a variety of sources including magazines and colour supplements in a series of scrapbooks that the writer Gerrit Gohlke has described as ‘atlases of illustrative image commercialization’ (Gohlke, ‘Standards’, Frank Nitsche, exhibition catalogue, Leo Koenig Inc., New York, 2002, p.17). Nitsche works from these albums, abstracting forms from photographs and advertising imagery to create paintings whose hybrid shapes hint only tangentially at the original images. His paintings always have manifold sources, including private experiences as well as found imagery. Music is an important influence; he has described his working process as ‘playing the guitar on my paintings – with my brush’ (correspondence with the artist, 27 October 2004).

Nitsche’s painting process is complex. He constantly overworks the various visual motifs in his paintings. He scrapes layers of paint off his canvases to reveal underlying layers, providing a history of the work’s making. The palette of BOT-18-2004 with its flat areas of dusty pink, pale purple and olive green on a grey background was influenced by the artist’s visits to California. The soft colour fields also recall the work of Neo Rauch (born 1960).

In this painting overlapping fields of colour outlined with sharp black and white contours approximate architectural or industrial shapes. The black and white outlines provide a tight framing device, encasing the coloured areas and anchoring the image. The flat planes and sophisticated use of colour in Nitsche’s painting suggests the precision of digitally manipulated imagery. However, although Nitsche is interested in computer aesthetics and high design, his works are improvised on the canvas and composed wholly by hand. The complex arrangement of forms in BOT-18-2004 recalls an easel or shelter of some kind but resists literal or straightforward interpretation. The titles of Nitsche’s works are a private code that he intends never to be deciphered; similarly, he intends that the imagery in his painting should not be limited by simple readings or explanations

Further reading:
Gerrit Gohlke, Frank Nitsche, exhibition catalogue, Leo Koenig Inc., New York 2002.
Anna Moszynska, Eberhard Havekost – Goldener, Frank Nitsche – der Springer, Thomas Scheibitz – das kalte Herz, exhibition catalogue, White Cube, London 2000.

Rachel Taylor
August 2005

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