Monet, Manet, Money; Muji, Gucci, Pucci, Prado - nowhere else is the sign of our times more apparent than in the world of commerce. It is the circus in which our lifestyle is traded and portrays our consumer behavior: “my house, my car, my boat, my wife, my work of art”. Advertising and art are rivals, vying with one another as competitors to be taken seriously in the free interplay of illusion and aesthetics in which both parties adopt the typical strategies of the other. Peter Vahlefeld allows this paradox of concepts to collide in his paintings, not without a certain sense of irony though.

In the first instance, all the references he uses and paints over are media products that are circulated in order to draw attention to art events, exhibitions and fine art auctions. In the process of overpainting auction catalogues and gallery advertisements, the link between the circulation of the image and the expected circulation of as much money as possible becomes obvious. Almost all written information regarding the function and context of the images, such as captions, page numbers and gallery names remain visible. The printed materials are attacked with oil paint and appear as archaic manifestos. In the photo studio these overpaintings are re-photographed and illuminated - the impasto foreground vs. the slick surface of the background - and re-used as a base on which to paint, this time on canvas. In doing so, Vahlefeld utilizes the new possibilities granted by computer-aided image production techniques, and post-production to render and modify images as a continuation of the painting process. The media he uses are inkjet prints with pigmented inks in dialogue with acrylic and oil paints. Unlike on the computer, where the functional logic is based on described rules, the material itself becomes the topic as a sequence of actions. Using a brush, a squeegee, a roller, stencils, grinding tools and other mechanical aids, elements are destroyed or re-built until the mark making surprises or irritates.

Peter Vahlefeld’s pictures are powerful and expressive. Each act of painting is a statement that brings about the next. The digital reflects painting as a possibility, negotiates it as it is practised in the analogue reality of the canvas, in order to then cover it in fragments with the precise photographic copy. The canvas acts as a tautological wallpaper that Peter Vahlefeld then re-digitalizes in order to again clothe it in digital printouts and paint. Duplication, trompe l'oeil, magnification and gridwork are the playful means with which he questions the icons of art history. By repeatedly scanning, printing and overpainting, the branding of media products are contaminated with oil paint and their significance eliminated. What remains is often only just scratched image surface that gives the impression of three-dimensional depth created as a result of the layering process—of building and removing layer upon layer of paint and prints on canvas. What appears painted can be printed, what appears printed is actually painted. It is not just the life-size blow-up reality of paint splatters that betray their artificial nature. The repetition of the same streaks can be seen distributed in different arrangements on the surface of the canvas, condensing into abstract picture planes. It is the difference of the image to itself which manifests as a tautology and seems to be somewhere in between the real material and its appearance. These media duplications are not just a quote of the overpainting but a repetition of their own mediatization. What repeats itself is not just the original painting with paint and brush, but the reproduction of this process as a mass-media image in itself.

In his photographic work, Peter Vahlefeld considers the immaculately smooth appearance of our society´s surface and increases their reality. Similar to the way in which the recognisability of the represented image remains imprecise, Vahlefeld’s photography undermines the classic boundaries of the genre to the extent of indistinguishability. Insofar as paint effects are reproduced using photographic means, he acts to counteract the expectations of the observer’s horizon. Since what appears painted is, technically speaking, photography and, vice versa, an apparent photograph has been in fact a painting. Here, he also does not make content a theme, but instead an instrument. The painting is reflected in the photographic medium. Programmatically art is, in this way, assigned the significance of an empty mirror reflecting the image of your own mistrust.

The video clips which are just as much formed by the sublimation strategies of art and its marketing, act to sabotage the documentary earnestness of photography and the strategic action of painting by means of a dysfunctional script. The senseless composition of a Goya puzzle from the Prado museum shop or endlessly flipping through pages of art magazines and auction house catalogues like a content-free sequence of advertising, help to formulate the social phenomenon of the present. In an essay published as early as 1993 and written by the recently deceased writer David Foster Wallace, attention is drawn to the fact that the stance of ironic refraction as a criticism of the current state has long since been incorporated by the market itself. Each image is both art and product. Even more: the art world itself forms part of the economic system whereby everyone wishes to be paid. Galleries, auction houses, art magazines, and everyone else who receives their income from advertising in the same way that state institutions are subsidized by the state (taxpayer´s money). There is no escape plan instead there might indeed be only one market and its economy of art production which can be subject of discussion or attack. The conveyance of existing, and often trivial things like museum shop merchandising or auction house advertisements, in another context, the appropriation of marketing strategies, the re-appropriation of already appropriated media-images and the expropriation of brand names and logos, are the tools employed to do this. What is left is a pretty good example of pretty good sales and the imperative to push the slick surfaces of a consumer culture to absurd extremes.

Luther Blisset