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PRESS RELEASE
TOM LEMKE I PURE – PHOTOGRAPHY

Vonderbank Artgalleries is pleased to announce the opening of “PURE – PHOTOGRAPHY” on July 10, 2008, a solo exhibition by Hamburg artist Tom Lemke. Both the artist and his teacher Markus Lüpertz will be in attendance.

The focus of the exhibition is faces –- large-scale portraits open a clear, undisguised look at people from the artist’s own circle of friends and acquaintances. Among the most prominent are Markus Lüpertz, Jörg Immendorff – with whom Lemke traveled through China in 2002 – and Andreas Gursky – his artist colleague and the first to sit for the series of portraits.

Tom Lemke, born 1960 in Hof, initially worked in Hamburg as a freelance photographer for the “Stern”, “Süddeutsche Zeitung” and “Die Zeit”. From 1990 to 1995 he studied classical painting at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf under Markus Lüpertz, whom he also assisted for several years. In 1996, Lemke completed his studies as a Meisterschüler – a member of Lüpertz’ “master class” – and has worked actively as an artist ever since.

How many faces have you already encountered? How many have etched themselves into your memory? Tom Lemke seems to ask the viewer. One doesn’t forget his portraits. The artist looks his models directly in the face. Taken from the front, larger than life-sized and with models positioned in front of a black background, no smile, no blink of the eye or wrinkle of the forehead gets in the way of concentrating on the faces in the portraits. Every nuance of the countenance is recognizable and lends the portrait its unique individuality. Tom Lemke’s gaze is sober, direct and honest. His head-and-shoulders portraits are a look at the reality exposed by the artist: a bare and unbeautified, without being brutal. Instead, his way of looking builds a very unique aesthetic of high intensity and monumental stillness.

The black background of fabric draped behind the models underscores the stillness and monumentality of the image and reinforces this particular mood. At the same time, it also closes off the space, guiding the viewer’s gaze directly to the face in the foreground. The recipient meets the portrait subject at close range, directly in the eyes where the photographer and his silhouette are also reflected. To keep this gaze focused directly on the faces, Tom Lemke keeps his technical procedure at a minumum: the models are placed in front of a smooth black background; his camera – a middle format Mamiya – is set up 1,80 meters away from the subject; the only source of light is a “soft box”.

The viewer should be able to see the subject’s souls reflected in their eyes, without coming too close to them in the process. Thus they stay, with all intimacy and intensity, closed and foreign. Tom Lemke’s photographs create an atmosphere of closeness without revealing themselves to the viewer in their entirety.


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