Return to Ether Shelter
June 25 – July 30, 2022
Nino Mier Gallery is pleased to present Return to Ether Shelter, an exhibition of paintings by German-born and New York-based artist Michael Bauer, on view in Brussels from June 25 – July 30, 2022. This group of paintings develops the artist’s interest in the synesthetic landscape, a genre he has been working in for the past four years. The eleven new oil, crayon, pastel, and acrylic paintings on canvas in Return to Ether Shelter free the landscape mode from the organizing principle of sight, presenting instead worlds of rapturous, sensory psychedelia.
Return to Ether Shelter comprises a series of entanglements: entanglements of form; and entanglements of body and environment. Bauer’s dissonant compositions do not guide the eye throughout their surfaces or produce illusionistic spaces that viewers might project themselves into. Nor do they necessarily resist us. Instead, they evoke sensation as a musical composition might, offering a sensuous array of texture, line, pattern, and form rendered in a kaleidoscopic panoply of colors. In a way, our whole bodies come into contact with Bauer’s paintings. Such omnipresence recalls archaic theories of ether, or aether, which was a substance understood in the Middle Ages to saturate everything in our atmosphere.
The inclusion of a moon within each composition clearly situates the canvases as landscapes. In Land of Tiny Hands (Return to Ether Shelter), the moon vibrates with a rainbow of striations resembling soundwaves. In Bach to Ether Cave (Hidden Aunt), the moon is a pale grey, shaded in areas like a weathered, old dime. And in Exhale (Ether-Mother), a blood moon hangs high in the sky. The moons – which all, in their own way, seem to distort the painted matter around them with their gravitational pull – are the only real coordinate point viewers can orient themselves to within Bauer’s landscapes. Around them, forms swelter, swirl, and pulsate. The affective charge of Bauer’s clamorous environments seem to overwhelm the attempt to represent them in sensible form. What’s left is a synesthetic funneling of sensory data into the visual realm.
Bauer’s prior work in this series situated the viewer inside a cave, looking out. But barring the moons, the work in Return to Ether Shelter eschews visual organization entirely for the felt experience. As e.e. cummings put it, “since feeling is first / who pays any attention / to the syntax of things”. Feeling is first, indeed: when discussing the series, Bauer returns time and again to descriptions of various atmospheric registers, like temperature, quality of air, and other sonic, emotional, or tactile experiences. More pertinent to Bauer are not questions about where, in a field, a tree grows, but whether the field is muggy or dry. He represents such visceral observations not through figural traces of their presence (a leafless tree, say, indicating the dry chill of winter), but through associative abstraction. Viewers are left to draw their own conclusions about where they are and how they feel within it.
Michael Bauer (b. 1973, Erkelenz, Germany; lives and works in New York) studied at the Hochschule fur Bildende Kunst in Braunschweig. Bauer has recently exhibited with Nino Mier Gallery, Los Angeles, US: Lyles & King, New York, US; Half Gallery, New York, US; Norma Mangione, Turin, IT; Mackintosh Lane, London, UK; Gladstone Gallery, Brussels; BE; and George Adams Gallery, New York, US. Bauer’s work is part of the Saatchi Collection, London and the Zabludowicz Collection, London.