by Stephanie Hentschel
Painting or photography? That is the question that inevitably arises when one views the works of Philipp Hofmann with their fine, painting-like structure, which is very evocative of brush strokes.
Quite clearly, it is a convergence of two artistic worlds: the world of oil painting and the world of photography, which is the actual medium of Philipp Hofmann’s art.
The manifold facets of painting have seemingly been exhausted in the history of art; similarly, the modern technique of photography has hemmed in the individual artistry of the photographer to an increasing extent. Against the backdrop of such developments, Philipp Hofmann has integrated a new approach to photography into his works, an amalgamation of the two art forms in which painting does not imitate the capabilities of photography: instead photography borrows the tactile and compositional expression of painting – the inversion of photorealism.
The objective of the artist, who has already lived in New York for many years, is not to reproduce objects as realistically as possible. His intention is to create a painting-like effect using the options offered by digital photography: just like photorealistic painting, it initially deceives the eye of the observer, forcing him to wonder what artistic method he is being confronted with.
Furthermore, the special technique enables the artist to exploit the advantages of photography with regard to a concrete snapshot and perspective and at the same time to transfer and record the moods of the setting into the pictorial narrative with the aid of the painting-like effect.
Many trips to different continents have built up a store of inspiration for the artist and form the foundation for the resulting subjects of his pictures. From landscapes and special architecture to themes relating to social life – Philipp Hofmann constantly seeks suitable motifs that represent the current spirit of the times, which he aims to record for posterity.
Gifted with an eye for art that was schooled early on, his works reveal his instinctive feeling for the aesthetics of shape and colour as well as a special perspective and the specific individual light situation. Accordingly, a row of colourful parasols on the beach are divorced from their functional importance and distilled into a kind of abstract pattern consisting of shapes and colours. The same effect is achieved with close-ups of various buildings with distorted perspectives: in those cases the structure of the façades – usually captured in an extremely high-angle shot – becomes the primary focus of attention due to optical shortening, and the actual function of the building pales to insignificance. In those works, the message of the pictures lies solely in the aesthetics of serial repetition, shape or colour composition.
An attentive observer, Philipp Hofmann captures spontaneous impressions in the form of snapshots. But the motif is not the only crucial aspect: the feelings and emotions that resonate within the moment, infusing the setting with tension, are equally significant. Therefore, his works seem to mirror present-day cultural life, simultaneously offering the observer a more intensive, highly original view of events.