Mineral Faces – A Thing Called Rock
Text by Frank Feltens
Rocks, their grainy surfaces and mysterious interiors, whose existence spans far beyond the imaginable for us perishable, quickly decomposing things, have posed an inspiration for many artists. Caspar David Friedrich has made rocks the quintessence of his northern German landscapes. He has made them a rock in the sea or a towering cliff. In his paintings, the rocks are shelter and alien objects at the same time. They are always paired with human presence. People sit or stand on them, amidst phantasmal dreamscapes – deceiving places that never existed physically, that make no pretenses as to their artificiality. Rocks carry the figures, while their gaze moves into the distant depths of space ahead, seeking realms of fantasy. Sometimes smooth, sometimes coarse, Friedrich’s stony bastions of yearning are drenched with melancholy tears for they represent a lookout onto something unattainable. For Friedrich, rocks are places of dreams, plateaus from which to contemplate spheres of the mind. In his paintings, the rocks seem removed from the space around them. Their presence reminds us of the physicality of his landscapes, while the far distances and places surrounding these rocky surfaces don’t. The rocks are harbors of reality amidst oceans of fantasy. Like in a daze, the figures, in physical union with the rocks, contemplate the inside of their minds, the distant shores and remote skies surrounding them in Friedrich’s paintings. The rocks are solid strongholds of imagination. They are stages for a miraculous spectacle unfolding before them.