The German artist Dennis Buck likes to implement letters within his silicon paintings, his signature often (or sometimes) becoming the work itself. Unlike other artists that might primarily pursue subject-matter within their practice — the what, not the how — Buck shifts focus and meaning toward material and process. The more moments spent amongst his work — his letters, e.g., which sometimes pertain to a childishly-banal quality — the more we begin to analyze their underlying complexity and emotional past. It’s refreshing to be confronted with things that not instantaneously give away their genre. We stand in front of them, waiting to sense their meaning.
Dennis, your name (is it actually your signature) sometimes resurfaces in your work. How come?
It took me a while to feel comfortable enough to deal with something so banal as signatures as a theme. It is what excites me most. How do other people sign? Signatures are the one thing my eyes get caught in immediately. There are these books by John Castagno where he is listing thousands of images of signatures. They are beautiful.
I’m actually someone who doesn't really have a signature. It always changes, sometimes drastically… however I see the importance in signatures, somehow it represents an entirety of you. Our mark, left behind. Do you read into signatures of friends, people? At restaurants, bars, for instance? I’d imagine signatures change though, from place to place, don’t they?
That goes for everybody. Even people who try to sign the same way each time, if quick or slow, they keep changing. Signatures also confirm the things they’re written on. I don’t see them as marks though. In my paintings, they neither are form, nor do they look like a line. But they’re without doubt not a signature in the traditional way of signatures being in the lower, right corner. For me they have this resistance in them, that brings tension into the painting.
And yes, I do read signatures every time I have the opportunity to. There comes this huge interest in typography with it, so it’s interesting to see, who signs how. How much time do they take, have they studied their signature and do they have a feeling for the proportions of a letter. Signatures change all the time, but I’m too young to tell if they keep changing. Maybe they stop changing, like people finding their haircuts.
Most of your signatures generally seem to carry the very same formality. Somehow emotionality isn't involved in them. Would you say that’s correct?
For me they are. Each variation in a curve can mean something else. It’s related to drawing a mouth with one line. Each tiny curve can express something. I did a lot of different kind of signatures, when I started really focusing on them. There is a couple of books I made, hundreds of pages of my signatures. In most cases I don’t like serifs. And then I got back to writing them in uppercase letters.
In general you seem to incorporate factual information, like Kunstverein.. And the date. What do you wish to memorize with this? Does it have to do with memory at all?
More so with archiving, it does help though, to see what for and when the painting got painted. In general the signature and the date are of the same rights and equal. Fulfilling compositional the same function as form or color.
If it has the information for an exhibition or an edition for an institution, the paintings paint themselves. Painting basic information paintings is very pleasant. It more so comes down to a matter of what materials to use. I also do use my most recent phone number in works and somehow never got called.
Often, when things are so obvious — like calling your number — nothing happens. A friend once dialed a phone number he read in a novel, and actually ended up speaking to the author for a while… are you disappointed no one ever took up the initiative?
Ah, I love that. Can you find out what book it was? I’m not disappointed, more so surprised. I would call.
I’ll get back to you with the name of the book, I honestly can’t remember since it’s a while ago. I’m pretty sure a GQ article came from that, or something… Returning to your work, by focusing more on material, you might focus less on the subject-matter within a painting. Is that intentional?
I am growing an interest in locating the point of process where-and-when a painting becomes a sculpture. Moving between the utility of classic materials like oil on canvas to working with materials from an opposing field of craftsmanship like construction. Sculpting translates to “Bildhauen” in German which describes the act of hitting an image. I enjoy that image that comes to mind of hitting a painting for long enough it becomes a sculpture.
In some ways, the information/content of the painting already being existent (address, etc.), the process itself seems to become meditative. Is there ever a moment you face frustration throughout painting? I suppose it would result in terms of choosing color, material, etc. Not about what, but how the painting turns out…
There is still a lot of pressure in writing letters or numbers with silicon, it’s a very unforgiving material. I sure am frustrated with what I do, sometimes. I try not to throw out anything. Work on it as long as possible, sometimes I can’t get around it and have to destroy something. But usually I try not to. I don’t like that idea of making 100 drawings a day and only two are good. I like the idea that the entirety of them are good. And then you make a book out of them.
Keeping the paintings also allows for the process to remain organic, and not proceed into seeking perfection. By calling silicon unforgiving, are you referring to the inability of correction?
Yes, definitely. It’s gluey and sticky when it’s wet, once it hardens out, you have problems to get it off the ground again.
How do you see your practice evolving?
I don’t want to predict the future and be wrong about it, but I want to focus more on things-you-can-sit-on in 2018. I also did stop smoking last Friday.
Images courtesy of DENNIS BUCK
interview LARA KONRAD
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