The work of Reinhard Roy
Reinhard Roy describes the raster screen as the most characteristic means of expression within his artistic work. His work is a good example of how soon we lose contact to the reality of his paintings and sculptures, if we look for the influence of historical examples or similarities to other contemporary works. Roy has discovered the raster screen as his specific means of expression. This discovery comprised at the same time the discovery of a new artistic concept, which should be relevant not only to a few experiments, but to all his future works. This did not mean, however, that he wanted the screen to be a substitution for monochrome surfaces or that it should give him the possibility to modify concrete paintings. On the contrary, the screen offered him certain possibilities but also limits, which he had to deal with. He was confronted with the resistance of the reduced formal vocabulary, a fact that on the other hand implied surprising chances. He shares the difficulty of feeling free within the limits of formal restriction with all the artists who intentionally concentrate on only a few important elements. This leads to a new evaluation of apparently small differences. Insignificant aspects can completely change a picture.
What we can see in Reinhard Roy’s paintings is no additional modification. It derives from the screen itself. The screen does not refer to some meaning apart from the painting itself. It has no referential function; it presents itself as the artistic substance. The technical conditions cannot be neglected either. They determine the picture, especially as far as the possibilities of modification are concerned.
Reinhard Roy has chosen the density of the dots so that the single dots are still visible. Even seen from a distance they do not melt down in a feint halftone. The eye perceives the contrast between the whole and the different parts. One cannot exactly define the basic element. It can be both the dot and the surface. The screens vibrate and remain in a state of restlessness and instability. The paintings seem three-dimensional. Roy says, “I use this formal element in order to create three-dimensional effects on the surface”. The shifting of the template and the use of different colors reinforce the impression of a three dimensional structure. The subtlety and artistic relevance of Roy’s pictures is reflected in the contradiction that this three-dimensional character is only apparent. It is real in the imagination of the onlooker. The structure of the dots activates the capacity to think in three dimensions. It is not just the pure acceptance of visual perception, but the understanding of the three dimensions as a transcendental reality. Taking these fundamental conditions into consideration, we may conclude that color, size and composition are not so important for the single work, as long as they correspond to the basic requirements of Reinhard Roy’s artistic concept.
A comparison of the different screens, of their position in the mostly square surfaces together with the layers, shades, moirés and colors clearly underlines the differences between the paintings. There is a series of works in cold blue with red screens, but also pictures in gray and light ochre. Roy prefers subtle shades of colors. He avoids the confrontation of primary colors, which gives a great lightness and intensity to his works. He keeps his distance from all schematism, an aspect of great importance. The formal emphasis of the screens varies from painting to painting. It can be a square surface in the center or a rectangle reaching the top of the painting. Surfaces of different sizes, single squares or squares in layers accentuate the base, or, tone in tone, at the margin, the inner surface. Some of the pictures have a meditative character, which is due to the presence of the blank space on the surface. They do not represent anything different from what they are. The visible does not refer to anything beyond itself.
The dot is a mathematical element. In Roy’s pictures it has become material. It has adopted a shape, by means of which it is accessible as an object of visual perception. Within a defined context it can also be enlarged, but only to a certain extent. Otherwise it would lose all its specific qualities as a dot. Blown up, it becomes a circle. We cannot precisely define the moment of how a dot turns into a circle. The series of dots creates a surface of a certain shade. It is really astonishing that single, separated parts create an overall structure, which can be regarded as something put together and at the same time as a virtually closed continuum. Roy mostly chooses screens of a similar density. There are however a few exceptions. A characteristic aspect of his work is the simultaneous presence of contrastive elements. His surfaces are transparent, but also compact with regard to their presence. The more the surfaces are transparent, the less they are dense. The most decisive difference would be between a surface marked at the corners and a surface without any screen. Roy has realized this radical minimalist differentiation of two surfaces in his sculptures. His pictures can be characterized by the transparency of the screen surfaces together with the effect of subtle lightness. Another important aspect is the question of the construction of reality. The dots of the screen and the shadows which suggest a three dimensional spatial concept contribute to the problem of perception, the perspective being another essential phenomenon. The fact that at a distance the objects diminish or even disappear is something opposite to experience: Distant objects are of a similar size than those close to us. We cannot speak of optical illusion, though. Nor can we qualify the way we perceive reality. This is also true of the Reinhard Roy’s screens with their vibrations, their transparency and their spatial dimension.
We can also see that he adopts some of his characteristic elements from his pictures for his three dimensional works. Due to the material Roy had to do important changes. In his reliefs the big distance between the dots, which are punched out, creates a structure within a series of screen fields. The edges are riveted. In other semi three-dimensional works the dots appear at the top of small pins. They are the markers of a surface. The shadow of the pins is visible when the light comes from the side. An object of cardboard, paper and wire as a wall-like field of holes suggests a structure in the form of inside and outside. Another important work is Roy’s big sculpture in the open air, a metal board with drillings and a supporting construction. This impressive work of art comprises all the significant aspects of Roy’s artistic concept.
A crucial condition of the singularity of a work of art is an artistic concept that is different from all the other artistic possibilities and a work that derives from itself. All that is transformed into something perceptible is already conceptually embodied in the decisive basic idea. In his work, Reinhard Roy is especially interested in the screen as a contrast to the unity of the surface. He does not use the screen in order to create halftones like in printing technology. Nor does he primarily want to create kinetic effects. He has understood the artistic relevance of the raster screen by intuition. The minimalist structures of the dots have no decorative character; they are inconspicuous and their consistency is quite fragile. In addition to that, they need not more than half of the screen surface. Art deals with the transformation of the visible into a conceptual reality. It is about the difference between a picture and an object, about the immaterial evoked by reflection. The works of Reinhard Roy meet this requirement in constantly new and subtle variations.