Peter Vahlefeld’s paintings grapple with reflections over marketing strategies in art. He has recognized that works of art in our culture inevitably are reduced to the condition of commodity.
What he does is to short-circuit the process and start with the commodity. Peter Vahlefeld overpaints readymade images like advertisements or marketing campaigns of international galleries, museums, and auction houses. The overpainted printed matter will then be digitalized and reworked on the computer, rendering the three-dimensional overpainting as a two-dimensional background for the new painting on canvas.
The result is a multilayered composition in which figure and ground seem to continually shift between the analog painting and its digital counterpart.
This method is predicated upon the crossover of painting, printing and collage, and draws it actuality from the collision between the visual codes of mass media and the subjective traces of painterly expression.
The whole social fabric of our society is used as a point of departure for abstraction. It becomes reanimated and supercharged, leaving a picture plane marked by an effortlessly elegant dance of smudges, puddles, and saturated strokes.
His gestural approaches intersect with references to fabrics and patterns as well — treating the material without respect, using destruction as a principle, sometimes playfully, while simultaneously building up energy in the paintings. A juxtaposition of hiding and exposing, smudged with their lost history.
This process speaks of one of Vahlefeld’s significant preferences: to introduce the painterly into the graphic, and vice versa, forcing the two modes together in a single image and then to let it go, allowing the material to alchemize independently.
Many paintings have text in them at the beginning. Primarily the text will be overpainted, but it sets a mood. Peter Vahlefeld takes decorative forms like words, logos, symbols, and fabrics to the extreme to recall an original canon of modern art. He succeeds in turning this canon into a complex, unforeseen structure.
With its decisively executed gestural abstraction and delicately caked surfaces, the canvases strongly evoke works by artists associated with postwar painting in Germany and France, such as Wols, Fred Thieler, Emil Schumacher, or Albert Oehlen — as well as their American counterparts like Robert Rauschenberg, Willem de Kooning or Julian Schnabel.
Berlin-based Peter Vahlefeld studied at the Parsons School of Design, New York, receiving an Honours degree in 1990.
He has participated in many solo exhibitions (London, Paris, New York, Berlin) and art fairs like art Karlsruhe, Germany on a regular basis or at auctions such as Sotheby’s in Vienna and Neumeister, Munich.
His work was featured on German Television ZDF for a project on Robert Mapplethorpe and his works are held in corporate collections throughout Germany as well as in private collections worldwide (United States, Canada, Paris, London, Austria, Norway, India, Ukraine, Hong Kong).