The paintings of Paul Galas orient themselves towards comic books. This stylistic choice goes far beyond a mere childhood nostalgia, although the images are undoubtedly imbued with that feeling. Every panel stands for itself and seem to be alone in a way, but yet they are all windows to a shared world. Colour is more important than text. The drawing already has, as do the titles, a catchword-like quality. Text would be redundant, because the plainly apparent has more immediacy than words ever could.
The world is small, but still it reaches from the child's bedroom to outer space.
Between the panels, Galas drafts an underlying utopia seemingly characterised by indifference. Everyday life and spectacle, the profane and the fantastical, opposites in general, are getting stylised and pushed towards convergence until one can barely tell them apart.
A certain optimism is always present—everything is shining from within, appearing illuminated from behind rather than from above. If one still unnecessarily discovers a sun in the sky, it timidly hides behind the trees. Outlined in black, it makes itself small and dim and modestly takes its place in the great side-by-side instead of radiating out onto the other objects. Pyramid, computer, UFO, light bulb, scissors, ball, tree, or human being, they are all things among things in these panels. Humour and radiance do away with all differences. Everything feels animated—and thereby equally turns into pop. The flowers smile contentedly.
Blue-green oversaturated landscapes serve as stage and desktop wallpaper for a laconic play. All actors keep still and silent, each holding their assigned position with great patience. They rather make the world than stem from it. Some of them seemingly spell their names—"lightbulb", "UFO"—, as though we were looking at concrete poetry.
The whole world is set in black contours through and through. They cut through the transcendent glow, and the objects’ spirit becomes illuminated by it. Emerging from that shared origin, each thing’s individual character appears and speaks its name loud and clear. Where the essence has to give way to a designation, the image's struggle for painterly depth begins. Then, the objects shake the name tags off.
There is order. The outlines are drawn with certainty, prevent even the smallest tremble and reinforce the freeze-dancing objects.
The actors in this comic world are alike. All living things have an object-like quality, while all dead things seem to have a soul. Everything settles down in the middle.
The scorpion can be picked up like a paperweight, used to open a beer bottle, and once arrived in the glass the beer politely says thank you. Just a moment later, the friendly beer can be found standing on the train tracks. Why it went there, we don’t know. One might also be reminded of the scene in "The Fabelmans" in which a disturbed, young Steven Spielberg recreates a very similar moment in order to gain control over his nightmares. In spite of all its clarity and optimism, this pop world also has something uncanny about it.
What makes comics unique, according to Lambert Wiesing, is that their means of depiction are simultaneously their intent of depiction.(1) Along this leveling ordering principle, meaning and nonsense now unfold horizontally. The real things give way to precise ideas, which then again reveal themselves to be abstractions at second glance.
Reduced to the seemingly essential, the easily drafted lines evoke a sense of clarity that makes us wonder where it might come from.
Heidegger describes this as follows:
"Correspondence to beings has long been taken to be the essence of truth. But do we then mean that this painting by van Gogh depicts a pair of peasant shoes that are actually present and counts, therefore, as a work because it does so successfully? Do we think that the painting takes a likeness from the real and transposes it into an artistic ... production? By no means.
The work, then, is not concerned with the reproduction of a particular being that has at some time been actually present. Rather, it is concerned to reproduce the general essence of things."(2)
Interrogating that "general essence of things" is the initial as well as final concern of Galas's paintings. When trying to follow Heidegger all the way, however, we become afraid to lose our footing, because what Heidegger describes as essential ultimately does not provide much support—appears just as fabricated as visually accurate representation.
There is a subtle critique resonating in Galas's paintings. It seems to walk alongside them with the same indifferenceand aimlessness, and yet it is there. The images hide nothing and that is sometimes difficult to endure.
– Michel Gomm is a visual Artist and free author. He lives and works in Berlin. This text has been translated from the original German version. – (1) Lambert Wiesing, Artifizielle Präsenz. Studien zur Philosophie des Bildes, Frankfurt am Main 2005, p. 80. (Artificial Presence. Philosophical Studies in Image Theory, Redwood City 2009) (2) Martin Heidegger, The Origin of the Work of Art, Cambridge 2002, p. 16.