Cliché or not, all these questions went round and round in my head when I visited Andreas Brenner for the first time.
One thing that motivated me for this encounter was the agreeable understatement that was expressed in his e-mails, but first of all it was a look into the art magazine "Sonnendeck", where, as I remembered, three photoraphs of Andreas Brenner were depicted. These pictures had not much to do with the conventional horse portraits I had known from Wendy & co., numerous calendars and horse books: A horse's head, really daringly cut off, forms a diagonal from the left bottom to the right top corner, culminating into an enormous eye. Two horses forming silhouettes that are combined or confronted with the contour of a huge tree, that actually predominates the center of the picture. And: Four blurred hooves and lower legs predominating a picturesque landscape format – the rest of the horse cannot be seen.
Beneath says a quotation of the artist: "Horsies and lubricating oil, these are two things that make you forget the rest of the world".
As I have previously heard, the trainee of the gallery "Schapp – der Effektenraum", where Andreas Brenner exhibited at that time (the photographs in the magazine were so to speak advertising for this exhibition), commented on the exhibits with the words: "Yeah, quite beautiful, but there's too little horses to see on them".
In Brenner's photography the horse indeed seems often to be pushed to the edge – but still stays the actual subject of the photographs.
When I finally was in the inner of Andreas Brenner's apartment, I was somewhat relieved. I couldn't spot any horse posters or magazines, just a horse set of cards and a mechanic cowboy on a tin horse. Instead a purple furry Milka cow, the opened "Kicker" (a soccer magazine) and CD's of Fu Manchu and Billy Idol. But nevertheless: In the artist's mind, horses are always present. Andreas Brenner knows a lot about his subject. Whoever is talking to him can feel and see his fascination for these noble animals.
Andreas Brenner's first encounter with a horse was as a little child during a weekend trip with his parents to the Marbach stud (not to be confused with the Schiller-Marbach at the Neckar river). The deep respect that formed the encounter at that time can be – as I think – noticed in the current exhibits as well.
Many many years later you could find him on a paddock in Filderstadt, by the hand of a girl, having a close look to her horse. And he realized: For him, unlike many horsemen, happiness on earth will not be found on the back of a horse, but in the position of a silent observer or admirer. To him, the horse's sublimity is more important than his possible own sublimity as a rider. Then, on a horse fair in Offenburg two years ago, Andreas Brenner had the first face-to-face encounter with a thoroughbred stallion of the – meanwhile advanced to his favorite breed – Akhal-Teke, which are distinguished by a, according to the artist, "standard" metallic shimmer in their fur.
After a conversation with the owner and the recognition that her stud also had a "7" in it's postal code, he decided to visit this stud in Gültlingen, near Calw, one week later, together with his camera. Meanwhile this encounter has been followed by many friendships with animals and people and many many photographs. Another result: Andreas Brenner meanwhile is the adoptive father of the 16-year-old mare Medlisha and bears the costs of her board and lodging.
If Medlisha would be able to visit today's exhibition, she first might also be thinking, "Yeah, quite beautiful, but there's too little horses to see on them". But would she, or could she, get into these pictures, she also would succumb to their charm. Those who want to see combed and beautiful horses in even more beautiful sunshine in all possible variations, can pay the internet site "www.pferdebilder.de" a visit. But are the photos there works of art? Are they separate approaches towards the aura and the abilities of a horse?
Last tuesday Andreas Brenner and I together visited a presentation of an award to Rebecca Horn at the Kunstmuseum, where the invited art-historian praised her work as a "homage to mobility". I think that the motif of the postcard of today's exhibition, which you can find in it's real size here on the wall, may also be classified as such a homage without hesitation. The optical streak causing camera shake does not only bring back memories of paintings of impressionism, but also lets the protagonist of this picture, the stallion "Touch Of Land", gallop past us with almost 70 kilometers per hour on the Iffezheim race course, and lets the floor here in this gallery vibrate. Like in the three neighbouring photographs, the originally concrete subjects compress to a graphic, even almost abstract thrill. In my eyes the fuzzy horse head is very charming, you can't make out anymore what is ear and what is mouth.
In the other pictures the dynamism of the sky seems to occupy an equal part. The clouds that are changing between light and dark are confronted with the shades of a horse's bottom. Those who look at the pictures for a longer time will notice a mass of details, for example daisies in the grass, a supposed sheriff's star on a jockey's head, or roofs, fences and posts that rise just a few milimeters above the picture's edge.
Sometimes these details also change after longer examination. A Mercedes star on the starting gate becomes a halo, a horse torso, colossally moved into the picture, becomes a map, where veins become rivers and scars become lakes.
This wealth of detail amazes above all when you know that right in the moment of it's coming into being, Andreas Brenner doesn't see the subject of the picture. His huge, complicated to use camera, that exposes negatives of the size of 4 x 5", is in fact called "Horseman", but is rather suitable for the photopraphy of landscapes and architecture than of moving subjects. The second fact, that might be astonishing in today's age of multimedia, is the fact that the artist doesn't alter his photos in any digital way. After the shot they will neither be retouched nor cropped.
A characteristic of Brenner's photography also seem to be the focus levels that pass through the picture on different axes, which are caused by the intentional tilt of the lens. So it happens that different parts, without these punctual focuses classified as minor, literally are moved into the focus and start to communicate, for example a horse's nostril or a window in the background's architecture.
I was already talking about the dishierarchilizing of the usual picture structures, that moves the protagonist or protagonists out of the center and so allows the details at the edge some unusual attention.
When I think about all these observations, I am really sure that Medlisha would be proud of Andreas Brenner's individual mark and individual viewpoints. At least I – though being no horse friend – am very taken with it. And I hope you feel the same.