An exhibition as a reflected confrontation
Bernd Engberding is an autodidact. Nonetheless this condition should be distinguished from the status of a hobby artist or naive artist. The absence of an academic education may be favourable for a stricter self-discipline, and allow the development of an unrestricted spontaneity and unprejudiced curiosity in relation to the entire world around him (and not only to the artistic circle) with its manifold ramifications formed by its history.
Engberdings' works are indeed a declaration of spontaneity and curiosity. For all that: Engberding did not create this works in an atmosphere devoid of artistic background.
On the contrary his contacts to the art scene of Düsseldorf have a long continuity. His studio, where he works and lives since 1988, is situated in a neighbourhood where a colony of artists are working in their different lines.
One of them, prematurely deceased Achim Duchow (1948-1993), a skilled and experienced painter, became his neighbour and friend, whose shrewd judgement was an important influence. In connection with "Medien Mafia" where many international artists besides Duchow participated, Engberding had the first opportunity to exhibit his works in 1987.
The works that are shown now are mostly oil paintings, partly combined with other materials as acrylic paint, large-sized wood prints on canvas, in addition the appertaining printing blocks. Some of the motives appearing on canvas have been applied with printing stencils. One of those stencils has been multiplied to form an edition.
These above mentioned techniques reflect the relationship of the painter concerning traditional past to modern day concepts and give an idea of the arising problems, when a distinction between original and edition has to be defined.
It is possible to name both the art of oil painting and of woodcut as "ancient techniques", without blurring the difference existing between handmade original and an edition.
Since the discussion of Marcel Duchamps "Ready-mades", "Rectified Ready-mades" and temporal distinct editions of - partly lost - "unique Ready-mades", the definition of the single work of art and the estimation thereof has been left uncertain.
Engberding cannot and does not want to ignore this condition. When he combines various methods of creating this consequently is more than a matter of technique, but also an indication that his own place in the history of art cannot exist without presence of mind as well as a certain knowledge about the past.
Irony and facility in connection with historical sources are no contradiction: they were transmitted from Duchamp to Duchow and Koons as a heritage that could be cleverly varied and increased in substance. Engberdings' choice of motif consequently develops this indissoluble crossing of past and present. The blending of archaic, mythological and symbolic abbreviations of scientific origin represents the growing menace of disparity between spiritual claims and "instrumental reason" ("instrumenteller Vernunft": Max Horkheimer) and depicts a foundation in a symbolic way that demands to be taken as a whole, and to encourage an undogmatic reflection of the world which deserves to be called "Natural Philosophy". This exhibition shows not without reason an arrangement of confronting images that reflect each other.