English texts

Michael Mattern

Constructivism today 
Constructivism Today – An abbreviated review

Nothing shapes our times as much as the advancement of technology.
This fundamental fact has been the core of my work as an independent artist since 1989: to reflect the changes of our society through technology.

The oftentimes flawless reality depicted in technical renderings is converted to my painting by application of airbrush in combination with acrylic painting being applied over larger surfaces.

I am, however, less interested in the outer appearance of technology, as depicted by Konrad Klapheck for example, but rather in the internal depictions of the creation of technology.

Technology facilitates our life: it saves lives (medicine), but it also manipulates us (cell phone, computers, television, etc.) Technology controlls our exisitence and helps us to control (surveilance) and destroy (weapons) the lives of others.

I am directing the attention of the viewers to the internal elements of all these things that play such an important role in our existence. Constructivism achieved a new direction by the incorporation of technical logic for the eyes of the beholder.
I make visible what is usable.

In general, there are two main approaches I take:
For the series called “Analysis” I analyse technical renderings, conductor plates, etc. for their worthiness to be used in composing a painting. No line or proportion is changed; all remains true to the original on the canvas.
In the series “Analysis Montage” I blend several of these franctioned images next to each other or superimpose them.

To give one representative example here:
I linked three modules of a cellular phone – in actuality no larger then 200 x 200µ - next to each other, thus creating a composition of 160 x 360 cms. “Analysis-Montage III“ makes the invisible comprehendable and worthy of artistic depiction.

For the series “Compositon” a series of basic elements of construction plans that relate closely to our everyday life are selected: a cutting machine for distribution of raw materials, impression cylinder for print production, etc. Parts of these compositions are the series “Standards”, with which I had begun to pinpoint to the norms set forth by society and economy and how these norms reflect on our lives.

Recycling is yet another important factor of our lives today.
The incorporation of masking tape and scalpel enables me to establish my own “Recycling” works, paintings that correspond to my own paintings. Each and every stencil that is used in a Recycling work had previously been used in an “Analysis” or a “Composition”, and can be found either in the internal or external element within these works.

I set the forms in a manner not unlike brushstrokes on the canvas. The contrasts, the differences in the colors’ intensity and the forms themselves yield a maximum in depth, power and motion, thus reflecting the complexity of our times.

Experts have argued that my work must be seen as the renewal of constructivism. I am led to agree, as the basis for my work – geometry – has been the driving force of the great constructivists of the past, while being the core element of all technical renderings we find determining our life today.

It is certainly easy to recognize that depicting the reality of our times with the employment of said “neo constructivism” is possible without following the mainstream of contemporary art.

August 2009 Michael Mattern
Pictures of knowledge 
… Jacobo de’ Barbari discovered the pictorial worthiness of the view upon the world from above …

… Only Dürer’s ability to recognize the flora of the world e.g. a “Patch of Lawn “ as pictorial worthiness opened new knowledge of domestic vegetation …

… hardly anyone accelerated this change of perspective ( the pictorial worthiness of human anatomy) as decisively as Leonardo …

… it is imperative to consider the recurring historical experience how difficult it was indeed to orientate the perceptions of contemporaries by means of new pictureworlds towards knowledge and thus enable new evaluations of the mundane world, if one wants to estimate what Mattern is doing …

… as it can be proved that no concept of landscape existed until the works of landscape painters, so only the hopefully rapid acceptance of Mattern’s pioneering work will provide possibilities to develop pictures of knowledge adequate to our actual life’s situation.

Only these pictures activate our knowledge, enabling us to percept the one and same world in new ways.

Der Barbar als Kulturheld, Ästhetik des Unterlassens - Kritik der Wahrheit - Bazon Brock III
Gesammelte Schriften 1991 – 2002
ISBN 3-8321-7149-5, DUMONT-Verlag


Mattern’s work reacts to the complex interrelations in the modern industrial world.
His ANALYSEN are precise depictions of engines, microchips, transmissions and other technical objects.
In his pictures however, we do not see the superficial form that interested Fernand Léger or Konrad Klapheck. Mattern moves to new grounds, making the inner logics of form and function visible.

Mattern’s work begins with original construction blue-prints. In a first step, sectors are being ‘analysed’ with regard to pictorial worthiness. In order to transfer a sector onto canvas the artist is bound to the given frame of the constructional grid – neither proportions nor alignments can be altered.

This principle is equally applied to ANALYSE installations, using not one but several sectors in the process of depicting a specific topic.
Elisabeth Fuchs-Belhamri
Formen und Funktionen – Konstruktives von Michael Mattern
Catalogue of Museums in Schleswig-Holstein Nr.48, 2000 Itzehoe

Only the creation of new forms that correspond with the forms of real life, satisfying life’s actual needs, will bring art onto the proper road. Instead of constant external conformity the possibility and necessity exists to disclose new values from within, making them visible through new forms capable of depicting the world’s modern technology.
“Konstruktion der Architektur und Maschinenformen”
by Jakow Tschernichow from the introduction by
Gollerbach, 1931, Moscow

Mattern’s concern is to visualize what human imagination and spirit can achieve and that we are able to control these achievements if we look into their elements and are aware of them.
Technology thus becomes commensurable, looses it’s scary aspect and is less apt for misuse. In this aspect Mattern’s work belongs indeed to the tradition of “painture engagee” and is to the benefit of all of us…
Bernd M. Kraske
Formen und Funktionen – Konstruktives von Michael Mattern
Introduction by Head of Museum, 2000 Schloß Reinbek/Hamburg


With regard to KOMPOSITIONEN I am again moving within the limits given by the requirements of technology. I search the constructional blue-prints for basic parts that could serve as analogies for our time: the “gewuchtete Walze” (balanced cylinder plates) thus stands for rotary printing (print media), tubes for supply and disposal – containing all basic elements of constructivism.

The “Schneideeinrichtung” (cutting device) symbolizes separation, apportionment, allocation.
In KOMPOSITIONEN I also apply series production, supplementing topics over a longer period of time. The series STANDARDS e.g. was originally begun to emphasize the importance of norms in society und economy. An important new topic emerged in 1997 with gene manipulation becoming reality.
Michael Mattern

… Mattern partially surpasses the analysis of the given frame and creates new compositional interdependencies. Michael Mattern’s art thus projects into the future. Only he who has a perception of the present as it is will be able to find orientation for the future …
Erhard Lange
“Konstruktuvismus heute”
Opening speach, 1999 Bad Honnef

… as the repetition, one could say the eternally recurrent typus relates to the omnipresence and predominance of norms and rules, the pictorial presentation of technical functions illustrates the controlling and monitoring purpose of technology.
Elisabeth Fuchs-Belhamri
Catalogue of Museums in Schleswig-Holstein Nr.48, 2000 Itzehoe


The industrial process of recycling illustrates a basic strategy of dealing with the phenomenon ageing and the old. Emphasis lies not only in re-using parts or installations, but on conversion.

In a certain sense creative processes of artists can be viewed as permanent change and conversion in closed circuits.
The single exhibit represents the lasting of creational processes. Pointedly spoken, also artists do recycle forms and figures, pictorial thoughts and creative concepts taken from their predecessors or their own previous works.
Mattern too recycles given elements from his earlier ANALYSEN and KOMPOSITIONEN, themselves having processed the logics of form constituting the basis of all constructional blue-prints and functional schemes of any machine

As these machines influence our lives today much more than landscapes, interior designs, battles or christian legends, Mattern has been attempting for ten years to emphasize the pictorial worthiness of their formal and functional logics.

To some extend he is thus recycling works and concepts of artists like Léger, Seiwert, Hoerle and Klapheck. Mattern may however claim for himself that he has not only put a soul to the manifestation of machines as did his predecessors, but that he has visualized the figurative concept that machines represent.

His technique requires to cut out the sections he wants to process from the mask – foil with a scalpel. He has found a solution for temporary storage of the remaining parts of the mask so he can use them –documented to the last bit– for the RECYCLING exhibits.

I may make a suggestion concerning the approach to his RECYCLING presentations: consider them as garbage dumps.

Garbage dumps are fascinating in as far as one can extract from their chaotic mixture single objects and reflect upon their original context and use. Especially children love to do things like that, succeeding in constructing new objects from these fragmented and singular parts, using them e.g. as toy, icon or experimental installation.

Mattern’s RECYCLINGs invite a similar approach. They can be viewed as playful imaginations of technical processes, as icons of change and as models for ageing as a strategy of production, made to last by Mattern’s works and pictures.

Bazon Brock
“Die Macht des Alters: Strategien der Meisterschaft”
ed. Bazon Brock on behalf of the Stiftung für Kultur und Kunst e.V. Bonn-Köln - DuMont,1998 ISBN 3-7701-4652-2

... closing in on time ...
I did not want to simply follow today´s preeminent trends in watch designs when I began to work on the 100th. anniversary edition of the FORTIS watch. The watch I had in mind was to be recognized unmistakably as part of my work, while defining the concept of time in a new manner.
I wanted the watch to reflect the passing of time alongside a promise of the future.
The hands are moving in towards a blue plate, forming a perfect circle with each twelve hour rhythm.
The past (of constructivism) is expressed by means of colors and symbols: blue and yellow,
a circle, a square, a triangle ...  The future is represented by the design of the face itself;
it allows us to see the future by gazing at the complexity of technology.
Sales of this limited edition collector´s watch have started.
For further information, please visit www.fortis-watches.com

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