In his works, Adrian Sauer interrogates the conditions of the photographic in its forms of emergence, functionalities, and modes of interpretation. In the tradition of a photography that analyzes the image, he develops his oeuvre in a manifold and highly precise form of expression that includes photographic images and objects, graphic spatial bodies and essayistic text and sound installations. In its very own, indirect way, his work enables the process of vision and thinking about image production today and in the future.
Abstraction Layers is Adrian Sauer’s sixth solo exhibition at the gallery. It explores the concrete manifestation of images, the ways in which they are constructed, their surfaces and their relationship to the space surrounding them. The central work groups 256 Graustufen (256 Shades of Gray), Ziegel (Bricks), and Pflastersteine (Cobblestones) are shown in an allegorical network. This results in a visual dialogue that uses the hybrid existence of the images as a means for revealing how our reality is constituted by media.
In so doing, Sauer focuses on the individual components of the process of representation itself: here, production and reception are thought together. His fundamental interest is exploring the structures that render a picture “recognizable.” The special character of his pictures is defined by the processuality of their reception. They can be perceived as flowing structures, something that develops from the semblance of reality in the photographic via the process of digital manipulation towards a painterly result, along the way emphasizing the manifestations that this process generates.
“I broke with the conception that the image has a certain direction… you could walk around it, there isn’t a defined direction to look at it.” Adrian Sauer, 2021
256 Graustufen refers to the capacity of digital photography to depict exactly 256 shades between black and white. These 256 possibilities are the archetype of image computing: additive process, visual composition, and the apparently endless layering of chromatic abstraction. Sauer transfers this complexity to pictorial panels where structural fluidity is reflected in our immediate process of perception, at first sensorially, then cognitively. From the smallest pixel unit to tonal scales and finally as long series that structure the exhibition space from the purest white to the deepest black, a stupendous aesthetic is generated all its own, entirely without a motif, without an exemplary image.
In the series Ziegel und Pflastersteine, placed as quasi-figurative counter shots, Adrian Sauer rigorously processes the smallest elements from which our constructed world consists. He first captures them with his camera in a pure, objective, sober fashion. In the process of digital appropriation, the manipulation and editing of the original images using a special method, Sauer adds layers of physical and conceptual complexity: digital painting, a meta-pointillism where pixels serve as points of color that, applied as patterns, result in the unique ensemble of an image.
Adrian Sauer’s approach is characterized by its aesthetic and conceptual radicalness. His works always emphasize the meeting of digital form and physical surface, making his works stand out from the algorithmic metasphere. In the process, an amazing and yet compelling cycle of a complete construct emerges: always starting with a photograph, an image of palpable reality, and ending with a product whose most important form of existence is the physical support.
In between, the space of possibilities reveals itself. Abstraction layer is a term from computer science: every new layer enables the most differentiated algorithms to be executed without having to know the function of the layers below. Perhaps a kind of ‘technological faith’ in what lies deeper, the already recognized, the foundational. Adrian Sauer succeeds in transferring the puzzling, multilayered world of algorithmic image constitution and media refraction to the artist sphere of the minimal: enigmatic, auratic, and with the capacity of making complexity graspable, allowing us to feel it.
“Artists produce visibility. We now live in an age of immense visibility. I am concerned with reducing complexity. It’s political. I have reached a limit in the search for images, which is often very intuitive. (…) This was followed by the observation that image production is increasingly shaped by software, programs, networks. I am not trying to find the last hidden niches in the camera program and to exhaust the program. I am much more interested in showing the program. To show that images are the result of mathematical and scientific principles. I try to make something clear.” Adrian Sauer, 2021
The focus of Abstraction Layers is accordingly the question of how photography, computer, and the human being — both creator and beholder — find their way to one another. Cryptic, intermedia images like those by Adrian Sauer leave the space of the photographic and force us to take pause to think about how the individual perception of images is more than a motif that is reflected on our retina. His work is the successful attempt to communicate the central concept that the perception of art is an act of contemplation.
Adrian Sauer (born in Berlin, 1976) studied at Leipzig’s Hochschule für Bildende Künste and completed his studies with Timm Rautert. His works are shown regularly in international contexts, most recently at Centre Pompidou, Paris; DZ Bank, Frankfurt; Oldenburger Kunstverein, Oldenburg; Centro de Arte de Alcobendas, Madrid; Designmuseum Danmark, Copenhagen; Sprengel Museum, Hannover; Sanaa Building Folkwang-Universität, Essen; Fotomuseum Winterthur.
Adrian Sauer has just been named prizewinner of the renowned SPECTRUM International Prize for Photography 2023.
Other prizes and stipends include Casa Baldi Stipendium/Villa Massimo in Rome; Konrad- Adenauer-Stiftung, Künstlerhaus Ahrenshoop and Künstlerhaus Schloss Wiepersdorf.
Public collections that include his work: Sammlung zeitgenössischer Kunst der Bundesrepublik Deutschland; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Sammlung der DZ-Bank Kunststifung; Colección BES Arte; Fotomuseum Winterthur; Albertinum, Dresden; Museum Folkwang, Essen; MDBK Leipzig; Zabludowicz Art Collection, London; Colección Helga de Alvear, Cáceres; The Albright Knox Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Colección Banco de España, Madrid.