In his new show, Michael Fischer addresses, in both oil painting and color photography, the problem of how to visually present ‘Geist’. This is no easy undertaking. Ultimately, the success of his presentation depends on our ability to intuit what cannot be shown.
What does ‘Geist’ mean? By naming his show with this deceptively simple German word, Fischer invites the play of complex layers of meaning. ‘Geist’ sounds like the English word ‘ghost,’ but also means intellect, soul, spirit, and wit. Human spirit and human intellect jostle (in our imaginations) the ghosts we know from scary stories told at night, just as those ghosts find themselves bumping into Hegel’s ‘Weltgeist,’ as well. So we find that ‘Geist’ is the kind of ‘simple’ word with which philosophers struggle; yet in Michael Fischer’s work these meanings act as translucent layers each augmenting the next to create both depth and a surface glow.
By contrasting two media and their qualities, Fischer approaches the difficulty of re-presenting in visual media what cannot be seen. The paintings, self portraits in a series of Hatha Yoga positions, are almost traditional in their realism. The transgression is his nudity. The photographic self portraits, while also nudes are meditations on the nature of abstraction.
The paintings explore a concentrated stillness in which the search for inner peace can be inferred. The photographs observe simple movements which are almost explicitly not a search for pure spirit or pure spirituality but which somehow, by the very nature of observed simplicity, free the spirit and make it visible.
While we search the paintings for the visual capture of a moment of spiritualization, we see in the photographs spirit in the moment of vanishing.
The pleasure of this show lies in the contrast between the realism of the paintings and the un- or other-than realism of the photographs.