Beyond Painting

After the last decade's never-ending theories proclaiming the death of painting, the medium emerged in the beginning of the 21st century as one of the most engaging forms of visual expression. However, what does painting mean today? Is it possible to consider it beyond the convention of paint on canvas? Or in relationship to 'new' media? Over the past two years, 'Imagination Becomes Reality,' a five-part exhibition cycle of the Goetz Collection in Munich, Germany, has attempted to provide, if not a definitive answer, at least a series of topics to examine this issue. Highlighting the extensive mutual influence of painting and the other fine arts characterizing our age through the juxtaposition of diverse works, the show points to collector Ingvild Goetz remarks: 'Interesting in this is that many artists expand the medium of painting in sculpture, photography, and video; that is, they 'paint' on different surfaces, whereas conversely painters often first generate their pictures on computers to then ultimately transfer them to canvas.' Opening today at Karlsruhe's ZKM, the final installment of 'Imagination Becomes Reality' brings together 49 international contemporary artists, among them Jeff Wall, creator of the iconic piece that encapsulates the organizing principle behind the project. As ZKM's head, Gregor Jansen, said in 'Restoration' (1993), 'the painted panorama as mass media and precursor to film is present as is photography and picture production.' Until May 1, visitors will have a chance to see how this work and all the others on view challenge, refer to or are informed by the Western pictorial tradition that informs today's painterly practices in other media. - Miguel Amado