What should one call these images? Are they photo-paintings? Is it painting without paint, or photography without photographic method? Alexander Wolf uses his camera like a brush. Modern digital technology allows him, already while photographing, to increase constrast and condense colors, creating distinct fields of color. The natural color spectrum is reduced and simplified, and what emerges are grainy compositions, often highly abstract, without clarity or depth. The original image seen through the viewfinder is often transformed beyond regocnition. Wolf makes no further alterations of his images on computer. Instead, he is fascinated by the immediate changes allowed on site by a digital camera. His method creates images comparable to those of a visionary-analytical painter. One is spontaneously reminded of Paul Gauguin and the Nabis, who isolated forms and colors, melting them into ornamental surfaces. Wolf is not playing hide-and-seek. He reveals the secret of his distorted compositions in their titles. A yellow amoeba enveloped in a reddened mass turns out to be the artist's godson, an undulating sea of color a "Portrait of Shelly" or a pointilistic gold-rain a lighted heaven in a Casino. Some images are immediately recognizable despite the distortion, others only at a distance after the eye has merged isolated colors back together, others remain enigmatic. Here, Wolf's use of focus comes into play, the classical means of photography, through which a painterly atmosphere or distortion of content are created.
In addition to their reflection on the visual vexations of perception, Wolf's photographs point like art-manifestos to the tension in the relation between photography and painting. Ever since photography proved itself capable of imitating nature as no painting ever could, mimesis has lost it's power for the classical art forms. Realism became a word of reproach among the painters and sculptors of the avant-garde, who had begun to fragment and atomize the human body, the landscape, and the world of things. When in the 1960s, the pop-artists, minimalists, and conceptualists broke with the dogma of abstraction which had established itself in the western world, painters developed new forms determining their relation to photography. This ranges from Warhol's commodity reproductions to the most precise of photo-realism, which challenged photography, while at the same time calling into question its exclusive claim to perfect mimesis. Gerhard Richter helped inaugurate a new epoch in the Sixties, as the "end of painting" was proclaimed, with his opaque and distorted photo-imitations, a reference point today for many young artists who are returning to this form of meta-painting, developing their works from photographic studies, and with photographic means. Photography, for its part, has strived since its begining for the means of painting. The photograms of Christian Schad and Man Ray paved the way into abstraction. Aside from the realistic, documentary, and story-telling genres, since the pictorialists of the 19th century there has been a strong tendency toward painterly photography, which, using techniques of distortion, collage, manipulation of focus, and development processes - and recently with digital technology - has achieved painterly effects.
All this is brought to mind by Alexander Wolf's photographs. He resists the currently trendy photo-documention of everyday-life, quick snippets of reality sunning in the success of Nan Goldin and Wolfgang Tillmans. In contrast, Wolf presents contemplative dream worlds, once removed. Through his lens, beaches become gardens of paradise, architectural details delicate structures, banal street scenes psychedelic drug-trips. A shop becomes a carpet of colored reminiscent of Matisse, a face in the sun radiates like a thermal image. Digital technique opens up heretofore unimagined visual experience: with warmth and color, Alexander Wolf leads us into this strange new universe.