Dr. Dagmar Preising (GB)
„Nulla dies sine linea - No day without a line“ 2005

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Katalog “Karl-Heinz Jeiter – Kein Tag ohne Linie – Zeichnungen von 2001 bis heute”
Aachen, 2005 - Text von Dr. Dagmar Preising
Übersetznung ins Englische von Holger Hermannsen

Nulla dies sine linea - No day without a line
The drawings by Karl-Heinz Jeiter

As an artist whose whole œuvre is dedicated to the art of drawing, Karl-Heinz Jeiter’s position is certainly unique. Graphite and colour pencils are the only instruments he ever uses for his abstract compositions, and all of his visual ideas are realized on paper. Considering the diversity of his artistic work, this kind of self-imposed technical limitation is nothing short of surprising. His work comprises everything from small drawings in his sketchbook to large drawings mounted on wooden panels measuring several meters. Karl-Heinz Jeiter explores the possibilities and limitations of drawing - he discusses the medium of drawing by means of the drawing itself.

The constitutive element of each drawing is the line as the most direct expression of artistic imagination. Since the Renaissance, drawings have been held in high esteem. They represented the creative potential, a draft that was intended to be realized in a different technique afterwards and only then became the final artwork. The classical drawing was thus primarily meant as a draft for paintings or sculptures. The emancipation from this context, its increasing acceptance as an autonomous genre developing its own means of expression is a process that had already been observed during the 18th century. But only with the break of traditions by the avant-gardes of the beginning 20th century it was fully completed.
In Karl-Heinz Jeiter’s work, both functional aspects of the drawing are present: initial draft and final 'product'. In many of his sketch books we actually find drafts that have later been realized as large-scale drawings.

Karl-Heinz Jeiter never spends a day without drawing, either working on his easel or drawing in his sketchbooks. Nulla dies sine linea, the motto of 19th century artist Adolf von Menzel, is what drives Karl-Heinz Jeiter. His sketches, mostly arranged in various numbers of blocks in his sketchbooks, are notes of compositional ideas. The geometrical arrangement of his sketches shows that they should not be considered as isolated works but as en-bloc presentations that embed individual compositions in a larger formal context.In these small sketches, the characteristic qualities of the genre become most obvious and show unsurpassed technical skill. Securely the graphite pencil glides over the paper, colour pencils are used sparsely. Vibrating lines and dense hatchings form clearly defined rectangles.
Small abstract compositions emerge, creating a contrast between white paper and light hatchings and condensed darker areas. Their gesture-like structure and the spatial effect of dark-to-bright transitions give them the character of landscapes (though landscapes have not been intended).

From the vast amount of sketches, some serve as drafts for monumental drawings. Karl-Heinz Jeiter then follows different approaches: On the one hand, he likes to explore paper in its quality as an artistic material. He does not cover the whole sheet with his compositions but leaves the borders untouched so that they attract more attraction than usual. The emphasis of the underlying material, that is very much in line with the idea of classical drawings, can be further enhanced by a frameless presentation.
On the other hand, Karl-Heinz Jeiter often conceals the characteristics of the material up to the point of making the paper virtually invisible. In that case, the composition fills the whole sheet and the edges are covered by a frame. Concealing the white borders seems to enhance the colours by itself. The few white areas of paper amidst the colourful contrasts almost appear to be like white patches of colour that were added later on. In fact, these works rather tend to look like gouaches. A close view still reveals the drawing-like structure with its fine pencil lines on white paper. The overall composition, however, only becomes apparent from a greater distance when the individual lines merge into areas of changing colours. The concealed white paper and the compositional arrangement of colourful geometrical areas have the effect that these large-scale drawings appear to be something in between painting and drawing. This is one of the main characteristics of Karl-Heinz Jeiter’s work.

Another series of larger works are mounted on wooden panels. The drawing again extends to the edge of the paper, and the wooden panels would not suggest paper as the underlying material. These wooden panels are used in Karl-Heinz Jeiter's en-bloc presentations. They show several smaller drawings that, in their specific arrangement, form a global composition. Such an approach is of course highly untypical of drawings - they rather take on the character of paintings. A closer examination still shows the structure of graphite and pencil lines, but such a close view is not intended. The characteristic ambivalence of drawing and painting has been mentioned before. Here, the limits of drawing have been left behind and what we see has actually become a painting.

The antagonisms that characterize Karl-Heinz Jeiter’s larger drawings not only result from the size and way of presentation but also from the visual structure. Karl-Heinz Jeiter’s works are composed of geometrical areas. Bundles of lines and dense hatchings are stacked in multiple layers and then partly removed again using an eraser or sand paper. This leads to changing colours that may remind of landscapes. The lines are actually so fine that the result is similar to a painting technique used in water colour, tempera and oil. The deep black colours created with very soft graphite pencils and powder and dominating many of his works attains an almost painting-like quality. The layering of different colours creates rich shades of colours that are typical of painting but not usually characteristic of drawings. The fine structure of individual black lines on top of a coloured patches, however, is an fundamental element of drawing again.
A last aspect in Karl-Heinz Jeiter’s is not less surprising: the relationship of abstract composition and three-dimensional visual effect. The amazing spatial depth of his works fascinates the viewer and incites him to watch time and time again. The play of lines, shades and space is not without a poetic effect. Comparatively trivial, however, are the titles (if there are titles at all). Gilgamesh, Ettlingen, Terrassa - 345 have no connection whatsoever with the image itself. They only keep track of the places and situation where the artist was at the moment when the drawings or sketches were made.

Karl-Heinz Jeiter’s work is highly appealing through its inherent contradictions and antagonisms. In his compositional drafts he still adheres to the classical idea of drawing, but in his larger drawings that are intended to be hung on a wall, he explores new possibilities that lead him beyond the limits of the genre without ever giving up the principle of the drawn line.

Dr. Dagmar Preising, Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum, Aachen


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