Oliver Christmann




Oliver Christmann

Oliver Christmann. Dialectic of Images – Painting between Construction and Intuition.

by Dr. Theresa Nisters

Painting is “the art whose sole domain, in contrast to architecture and sculpture, is the surface.” Etymologically, the name of the artistic genre derives from the Old High German verb “mālōn,” the meaning of which included various activities such as “to make a sign,” “to delineate,” “to colorfully decorate,” “to color,” “to write,” and “to design in the mind.” Thus, even before the concept of an autonomous art that is valid today was defined, painting already existed as a creative practice that implied both the material process of applying paint to draw boundaries and the conceptual achievement of producing signs.

Oliver Christmann’s painting penetrates to the bottom of this conception. Christmann’s paintings live from the vibration of color fields, which contrast with each other, collide, blur, and thus finally form a balanced whole. At the same time, the bilateral composition of the picture makes the structure of the artistic process visible. For Christmann constructs his paintings through the continuous repetition of two contradictory gestures. Layer by layer, the painter applies acrylic paint to the canvas, only to undo the work he has just completed in the next step by scraping off layers of paint that are still fresh. The colorful surfaces of his paintings accordingly reflect the ambivalent dynamics of covering and uncovering, revealing and concealing, creating and destroying that produce them. At the same time, in the close juxtaposition, overlapping and interpenetration of the most diverse color qualities, they evoke an effect of depth that opens the surface of the picture carrier into space.

The lively colorfulness of his paintings, however, is not the fruit of a spontaneous, purely intuitive application of color, but results from a lengthy constructive process. From the deliberate choice of painting utensils to the precise placement of individual color accents, Christmann allows color spaces to emerge reflected in layered grid and stipple structures. Just as the multi-layered surfaces of the canvases reveal the history of their creation in a fragmentary way, the painting process is also scanded by moments of pause, the necessary drying times of the individual layers of paint. The different densities of the paint application as well as its respective degree of dryness before the next work step determine how strongly the various nuances flow into each other and mix. If, in the course of his painting practice, Christmann has established a body of experience that makes the result of his dualistic gestures of applying and removing paint assessable, the interaction of the various layers of paint in the final result, however, remains to a certain extent “simply a surprise” even for the artist. This indomitable intrinsic law of painting, which can be “designed in the mind” but cannot be completely controlled, is emphasized by the artist. but cannot be completely controlled, the painter emphasizes by only finally reacting to the picture created by uncovering the various layers of paint.
If the working process ends in an unsatisfactory result, the painting is discarded, but enters the store of experience from which new color constructions arise. Christmann retains only balanced compositions, whose color gradients and forms correspond in harmony. From these, the painter divides off a particularly successful, expressive section with a straight, mostly vertical border line and paints over the rest of the picture surface in almost monochrome. The monochrome color field, which does not cover the entire surface, acts as a calm pole in contrast to the moving vibrato of the many-limbed color structures, providing a clear plane for the organic-looking color gradients and contrasts. If this seemingly antagonizes the depth effect of the multicolored color space opposing it, it does not turn out to be an opaque surface upon closer inspection. Rather, the overlaid layers create a play of shadow zones and light spots on the overlaid monochrome, through which it is structured and emphasized in its color materiality.

It thus contains the same layers and forms of color that are revealed in the open color structure. Christmann chooses the respective density and colorfulness of the monochrome part in the course of the work process. This interdependence of the two color fields is the reason for the finally homogeneous impression of the picture. For it does not consist, as the first fleeting glance might suggest, of two opponents, but rather, through the painter’s dialectical approach, blends into a cohesive whole.

In the interplay of construction and intuition, Christmann allows the picture its independence as a painterly sign. His painting does not serve as a representative of a message conveyed through it, it does not reveal itself lightly to the viewer’s gaze, but invites him to a conscious perceptive act in which it functions as an autonomous counterpart. In this dialogical situation, Christmann’s paintings stimulate the seeing eye, sending it on a journey across multiform color landscapes whose surfaces suggest the myriad layers of their history. Not the predetermined product of a clearly calculated strategy, Christmann’s painting preserves a freedom that applies both to the paintings vis-à-vis unambiguous attributions and to their creator in the working process as well as to the viewer in his interpretation. The visible traces of the painting gestures provide the possibility for associations, allow an understanding on several levels of the painterly: in addition to the pure perception of the colors, their interplay and the tensions created by the clash of different surfaces, the viewer can become aware of the materiality of the color paste, which does not cover the surface, but rather pastos structured spatiality in itself and finally allows references to the extra-pictorial reality.

In this respect, Christmann’s paintings make painting the subject of painting.
In the dialectic of their construction, they question the surface as the sole domain of painting, transgress the formal boundary of the canvas, and refer to the polyphony of painting as a historical, cultural practice. This is neither to be reduced to a mere depictive function, nor is it to be misunderstood in its abstraction as pure expression of the artist. Despite its complex construction, it also does not address itself exclusively to the intellectual abilities of its viewer, but conveys intensity and physicality through color and remains open to figurative interpretation. In the harmony of all these aspects Christmann gives his painting an unmistakable existence.


Exhibit Cat. Oliver Christmann. Dialectic of Images – Painting between Construction and Intuition, Galerie Josef Nisters, Speyer 2017, pp. 4-6.
[1] Jahn, Johannes: Malerei, in: Ders.: Wörterbuch der Kunst. Stuttgart: Alfred Körner Verlag, 1950, pp. 305-306, p. 305.
[2] Cf. keyword “malen,” in: Kluge, Friedrich: Etymologisches Wörterbuch der Deutschen Sprache. 24th, revised and updated edition, edited by Elmar Seebold, Berlin/New York: De Gruyter 2002, p. 593.
[3] Christmann, Oliver: Thoughts on the genesis of my work, 2017.
[4] Cf. note 2.


Born in Heilbronn

1981 – 82
Free art school, Stuttgart

1982 – 88
Studied painting at the State Academy of Fine Arts, Stuttgart, with Prof. Grau and Prof. Haegele

1995 – 97
Studio scholarship of the Academy of Fine Arts Stuttgart

Working scholarship in San Jose, California; Gallery Bischoff




vom Alltag befreit…, Sabine & Oliver Christmann, Galerie M Beck, Homburg
Glücksinsel, Galerie im Kornhaus Leutkirch im Allgäu
Der Erdenschwere entkommen, Galerie Augarde, Daun

Sabine und Oliver Christmann, Kunsthaus Klüber, Weinheim

Sabine Christmann und Oliver Christmann, Galerie Barbara von Stechow, Frankfurt
Kunstverein Kirchzarten, Galerie Anders, Lünen

Sinnliche Schönheit, Städtische Galerie Bad Wimpfen


ENJOY – Sabine & Oliver Christmann – Malerei
Stiftung S BC-Pro Arte, Biberach
Städtische Galerie Saarburg
Robert Koepke Haus, Schwalenberg
Galerie Karin Melchior, Kassel

Galerie & Kunsthandel Andreas Henn, Stuttgart

Dialektik der Bilder, Galerie Josef Nisters, Speyer

Energie der Farbe, Galerie Magnus P. Gerdsen, Hamburg
Galerie Albert Baumgarten, Freiburg
Haus Hasenbergsteige 31, Stuttgart, mit Sabine Christmann

Galerie Netuschil, Darmstadt
Galerie ArtEngert, Eschweiler
Galerie Nisters, Speyer
Kunstverein Heidenheim e.V., mit Sabine Christmann

Galerie Henn, Stuttgart, mit Sabine Christmann
pro arte Ulmer Kunststiftung mit Sabine Christmann
Städtische Galerie Wetzlar mit Sabine Christmann

Städtische Galerie im Turm, Donaueschingen
Galerie da entlang, Dortmund, mit Edith Oellers

Galerie Melchior, Kassel
New York Series, Deutsches Generalkonsulat, New York

Städtische Galerie im Fruchtkasten Kloster Ochsenhausen
Kunstverein Emsdetten


Galerie F.A.C. Prestel, Frankfurt

Schlößchen Schönfeld, Galerie Melchior, Kassel
Kunstverein March
Galerie Tazl, Welz, mit Markus Redl

Galerie F.A.C. Prestel, Frankfurt
Galerie Baumgarte, Bielefeld
Galerie Neher, Essen
Galerie da entlang, Dortmund, mit Manfred Masberg

Galerie Haldemann, Bern, mit Max Roth
Galerieverein Wendlingen

Galerie F.A.C. Prestel, Frankfurt
Sparkassengalerie Schweinfurt
Kunstverein Trossingen

Galerie Apicella-B., Köln
Städtische Galerie Villa Streccius, Landau,
mit Sabine Christmann

Galerie F.A.C. Prestel, Frankfurt
Kunstverein Augsburg, mit Sabine Christmann
Galerie Lenk, Darmstadt


Galerie Wiechern, Hamburg

Kunstverein Schwäbisch Gmünd
Galerie Fahlbusch, Mannheim
Art Frankfurt, Walter Bischoff Galerie
Galerie Walther, Düsseldorf

Walter Bischoff Galerie, Stuttgart
Kunst Zürich, Walter Bischoff Galerie
State University, San Jose, California

Walter Bischoff Galerie, Berlin
Kunstverein Bruchsal, Damianstor
Galerie F.A.C. Prestel, Frankfurt
Städtische Galerie Kameralamt, Waiblingen

Kunstverein Ellwangen
Walter Bischoff Galerie, Stuttgart
Galerie Walther, Düsseldorf
Galerie im Torschloß, Tettnang

Galerie Eich und Partner, Berlin
Kunstverein Brackenheim
Städtische Galerie „Fauler Pelz“, Überlingen

Aus- und Fortbildungsstätte, Auswärtiges Amt, Bonn

Rathaus Heilbronn



Art Karlsruhe, Galerie Albert Baumgarten, Freiburg
Künstler der Galerie, Galerie LandskronSchneidzik, Nürnberg
3. Galerientage Speyer, Galerie Nisters, Speyer
Affordable ART Fair I Hamburg, Galerie Gerdsen, Hamburg


Galerie Weinberger, Kopenhagen
Affordable Art Fair I Hamburg, Galerie Gerdsen, Hamburg
Art Fair Köln, Galerie Albert Baumgarten, Freiburg
40 Jahre Galerie Albert Baumgarten, Freiburg


Affordable Art Fair I Hamburg, Galerie Gerdsen, Hamburg
Poesie des Lichts, Galerie Nisters, Speyer
Bilder und Skulpturen, Galerie Rieker, Heilbronn


Flora-Flora, Galerie Rieker, Heilbronn
Galerie Melchior, Kassel
Wir treiben´s bunt, Galerie LandskronSchneidzik, Nürnberg
Galerie da entlang, Dortmund


Konfrontationen, Galerie Melchior, Kassel


Art Fair 21, Köln und Kunst Zürich,
Galerie von Braunbehrens, München


Klassische Moderne und Kunst nach 1945, Galerie Neher
Espaces transparent, Galerie Haldemann, Bern
Art Fair 21, Köln und Kunst Zürich, Galerie von Braunbehrens, München


Art Karlsruhe, Galerie F.A.C. Prestel
Gegen den schnellen Blick, 25 Jahre Galerie Haldemann, Bern


Stripes-Lines-Colors, Galerie Exner, Wien
Farbe-Fläche-Form, Galerie Neher, Essen


Der Grüne Salon, Galerie da entlang, Dortmund
Galerie Lea Gredt, Luxemburg
Art Fair 21, Köln, Galerie F.A.C. Prestel, Frankfurt


Kunst im Bundesverband Öffentlicher Banken Deutschlands, Galerie Völcker & Freunde, Berlin


Galerientage im Mannheimer Kunstverein,
Galerie Fahlbusch, Mannheim


Industrie- und Handelskammer Frankfurt in Zusammenarbeit mit der Galerie F.A.C. Prestel und dem Städelschen Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt


Kunstverein Speyer, Künstler der Galerie F.A.C. Prestel
Kunst im Bethmannhof, 33 Frankfurter Galerien,
Galerie F.A.C. Prestel, Frankfurt


Große Kunstausstellung München,
Haus der Kunst München


Jahresausstellung des Württembergischen Kunstvereins


Municipal Museums Heilbronn
Regional Council Stuttgart
District Savings Bank Heilbronn
Ministry for Women, Family, Further Education and Art Baden-Württemberg
Art Commission of the German Bundestag
BW Bank Stuttgart
Savings Bank Frankfurt/Oder
City of Waiblingen
Artothek Stuttgart
Museum Villa Haiss, Zell a.H.
LBS Stuttgart
Savings bank publishing house, Stuttgart

Item Ulm
Company Seele, Gersthofen
German Postal Workers’ Union Stadtsparkasse Ludwigshafen/R.
Chamber of Industry and Commerce Frankfurt a.M.
City savings bank Schweinfurt
Centre Francois Baclesse, Luxembourg
Company Seuffer, Calw
City of Weingarten
Collection Anton Dörner, Heilbronn
Savings Bank Hohenlohekreis
Augustinum Meersburg
Industria, Stuttgart
Volksbank Bielefeld-Gütersloh eG