Friedrich Teepe

May 2 - June 21, 2014

Friedrich Teepe was born in 1929 and lived and worked in Osnabrück, where he died in 2012. He studied painting in Düsseldorf and Cologne from 1958-65, and continued his lifelong practice as a painter and sculptor from his studio in a disused farmhouse in Osnabrück, always assisted by his wife Ursula Teepe. Deciding against pursuing an international art career he continued to teach at a secondary school in Osnabrück throughout his life.

In the early 1970s Teepe departed from his monochrome and abstract canvases and began experimenting instead with the material of painting itself, using the canvas to create spatial, sculptural forms by cutting, folding, superposing, and sewing the fabric. His approach – continuously defining a distinct and stubbornly autonomous voice while certainly reflecting the material aesthetic of the Arte Povera movement or of Düsseldorf Academy contemporaries such as Franz Erhard Walther, Rainer Ruthenbeck, or Blinky Palermo – was based on a corporeal concept to the image, addressing both the image as multi-dimensional and multi-faceted as well as its relation to the body of the viewer. In its restriction to a reduced array of materials, Teepe's highly idiosyncratic formal language concentrated on the material of the artist, the space and ratio of the artist's studio, and even the idea of craft and skilled workmanship.

In the mid-1970s, Teepe and his wife started creating sculptural works using the same textile material: Large-scale bannerlike pieces and hanging structures, equipped with buckles and straps, creating pockets and layers distorted by the weight of the suspended fabric and at times juxtaposing the undyed cloth with strong colours. His "Polsterobjekte," padded textile objects, challenged the narrow spatial limitations of his studio setting and consequently Teepe employed these simultaneously imposing and dexterous forms to bisect, disrupt, or obstruct space and movement, placing them within doorways and at angles, and constructing them to be moved, modified, and circumnavigated. He called these objects "impractical formations" ("unpraktische Gebilde"). Even though they were created in a somewhat secluded situation, the works' scale, their material weight and plastic presence, and their physical relationship to the body of the viewer take a defiantly public stance.

Teepe's choice of material – the raw textured canvas or untreated cotton, compiled around unvarnished wood or padded to form upright spatial elements – and his formal repertoire reminiscent of flags, functional or even martial aesthetics can be seen against the backdrop of post-war Germany and its destitution, but also as a departure from a culturally obsolete conception of (pre-war) art and painting specifically. However, in later years, Teepe returned to colour by applying painted elements to the textile objects or working with silkscreen and work on paper. Teepe conceived of his art as "spatial painting".

Teepe and his wife remained based in Osnabrück, exhibiting mostly locally since the 1970s. Teepe's work was shown posthumously 2013/14 within the group show To Open Eyes, Art and Textile from the Bauhaus to Today at the Kunsthalle Bielefeld, curated by Friedrich Meschede. For the first time the exhibition presented his pieces within the context of a comprehensive assembly of contemporary and historic textile art by Anni Albers, Sonia Delauney, Blinky Palermo, Sigmar Polke, Thomas Scheibitz, Olaf Nicolai, and Rosemarie Trockel (among others), thereby convincingly repositioning and reactivating the work, and proving its topicality today.

Within a much transformed contemporary art world and a fundamentally altered sensibility toward form and material, Teepe's work poses elementary questions in regard to the role of the artist within it, today as much as in past decades. What does it mean to work at the fringes of the art world, to remain mostly outside and independent of the pressures of the art market and to continue a (collaborative) practice over the course of a lifetime? How is an artistic oeuvre formed and shaped by these contextual settings that are as much individual decisions as they are contingencies?

The exhibition at Galerie Arratia Beer during Gallery Weekend is the first monographic presentation of Teepe's work in 25 years and the first one in Berlin.

Eva Wilson            


Click here for the German press release