Katrin Kunert Sacred Thicket

Those words do not refer to the thicket of the woods – the woods as a frequently occurring theme in contemporary painting; rather they point to the creative thicket with its impenetrability that Jurek Rotha finds in the industrial wastelands of western Leipzig, in the decay of old houses, in ransacked and matured things, in the rubble and the rubbish of old manufacturing plants that have not yet been touched by the renovation trend of the post-reunification era. Many of the impressive industrial buildings have already been demolished – presumably because they could not be turned into lucrative real estate. Some of them are still standing and being preserved, just like the one Jurek Rotha lives and works in.

Beyond a “lost place” mentality and against every nostalgic trend, the artist is searching for anything that can be experienced by the senses in these morbid ruins. Those places lost to time, whose rapture has an almost sacred effect. The mix of rubbish and rubble is surrounded by devotional silence. An abundance of forms, structures and colors – an overabundance – can be found there that makes any enumeration of details impossible. Just as a real thicket constitutes a natural habitat, Rotha conceives that abundance as a primeval state –a source of creativity to draw from.

In the process of decaying, things lose their purpose, their assignment, they are beyond their history. In pictures they can be reassembled. In the process of painting Rotha is devoted to the realistic form of the object but simultaneously he diverges from this form by abstraction to the point of dissolution. He thereby does not succumb to the various details, but builds and composes, arranges and layers the chaotic subject; to turn it into a landscape that gradually receives a life of its own.

The figurative abundance, the sensuously experienced “thicket”, is in and of itself a reason for painting, for delving into the creative process. Losing oneself to this process for a while is a yearning well known by many artists.

Rotha does not overlook the subject of his work in an artificial manner, he does not take an insincere stance towards it. It seems as if one can feel his presence in those empty rooms by the very fact of the careful attention he has bestowed upon them. He dedicates himself to his subjects by painting them. He floods the desolated rooms with light that provides them with an after-life – almost tenderly.
His portrait studies, which he creates in little time, sitting in front of a model, illustrate how he exposes himself to concrete situations as an artist. Life-sized heads are swiftly depicted on small formats with quick strokes of color. This technique of concentrating on the moment of encounter without freezing it frequently turns out beautifully. Everything matters in this vis-à-vis situation: the conversation or the tense silence, the movements of the model, every coincidence that Rotha knows how to use. Just a few “corrections” of a picture are made after the model has left. The paintings represent the “thicket” of living and experiencing which constantly and originally motivates Jurek Rotha's work. 

Katrin Kunert, Leipzig, 01.12.2016