The thing about reality


„The thing about reality“ wurde von Günter Baumann anlässlich der Ausstellung „Logica Simulata“ im Böblinger Kunstverein geschrieben. Zu dieser Ausstellung erschien ein von Gabriele F. Götz gestalteter Katalog (40 Seiten mit zahlreichen Farbabbildungen). Diese Broschüre können Sie zum Preis von 16 Euro plus Portokosten bestellen über

Wir danken Günter Baumann für die Erlaubnis den Text auf diesem Blog in seiner englischen Version zu veröffentlichen.


“The thing about reality” has been written by Günter Baumann on the occasion of the exhibition “Logica Simulata” by Holger Bunk at Böblinger Kunstverein. A catalogue (40 pages with numerous color illustrations) designed by Gabriele F. Götz was published to accompany this exhibition. You can order this brochure at the price of 16 Euro plus postage via

We thank Günter Baumann for the permission to publish the text on this blog in its English version.


»Security does not exist«
[»Sicherheit ist nirgends«]

Arthur Schnitzler, ›Paracelsus‹ 

Holger Bunk – »Alte Bäume« (80-15)

We look at a group of »Old Trees«, remembering that Holger Bunk, who created this painting in 2015, will end his teaching career in 2020, which in turn is the reason for initiating an exhibition at the Böblinger Kunstverein, showing this painting among others: with a path leading past a planter and felled tree trunks into a small patch of woodland, in front of which a wanderer has probably just sat down to rest – the viewer is still in the back, looking at the the sturdy trees and further across the clearing that opens to the right with a sober Bauhaus-like structure. Why, I interrupt myself, do I associate the old trees with Bunk? As is well known, art professors march towards new creative phases after their well-deserved retirement. So, I think of the artist in place of the viewer, who thinks of his continued journey through life – the felled trees and the resting wanderer are the others. But how do I come up with the assumption of all of this, when all I see is an almost idyllic piece of woodland, with people in the middle ground who do not allow any personal identification?

It’s all quite different – old trees, sure, you don’t transplant them. No, Bunk has nothing to do with it, but thoughts are free: the professor has “broken down his camp“ in Stuttgart and made his second home in Amsterdam his headquarters. So he’s not really transplanted. Really? Amsterdam is greener than some people think. The ›Amsterdamse Bos‹, the local forest, or the ›Vondelpark‹ offer pure nature. But I digress from the saying about trees that can’t be transplanted. Well, here are two trunks, in front of them a younger plant in a pot – transplanting and felling are close together. Is a path of life on display here as a symbolic representation? Holger Bunk, we all know, likes to put himself into the picture. Dürer, Rembrandt, Bunk – a beautiful thought that has yet to be discussed. Not here. Not really. Speaking of art history: The Dutchman by choice knows his stuff, knows Jacob van Ruisdael’s 17th-century painting, which now hangs in the London National Gallery, where it is titled: »A Road winding between Trees towards a Distant Cottage«.

Holger Bunk not only used the painting as an occasion, but also has a lot of fun alienating it, there is no doubt about that. In fact he made the notoriously gloomy, sometimes symbolic Dutch master much brighter, more filled with light, the cottage becomes an architectural item of New Objectivity – by this means, Bunk creates an entirely contemporary scene. I see Bunk smiling – the Ruisdael once belonged to Count Rechberg from a Swabian noble family. The heart of the ex-Stuttgart resident laughs. But back to the entirely realistic picture »Old Trees«. What do we really see? It’s a matter of perception. Perception: we make assumptions when we look, the artist just like me, but in the end we can’t say exactly what was true.

Holger Bunk – »Jux« (25-17)

Holger Bunk – »Teenage Party« (1981)


… back to Holger Bunk. He has a mischievous streak in his eye, a grandiose joke hidden in his characteristic calmness. He leads the viewer astray, and what makes him likeable: himself, too. After all, one thing is clear, he does it deliberately. “For the public it is” – the realistic painting, he admits – “attractive because it seems so easy to get into a work of art.” – “Oh, how beautiful”, he makes the aesthetes among his admirers think, because he knows that this entry only appears that way “and one can attempt a staging of various subliminal themes and levels. The actual theme is not reality at all, but rather the doubt about the truthfulness and the extreme influenceability of perception”. The person in doubts, it clears throughout the work, is – Bunk himself. That he does not have the virtualization of the world in the World Wide Web in his sights, or not really – or even so? – is shown by the fact that he was already following this track when the digitalization of our thinking was still a numbers game. There are 36 years between »Teenage Party« (1981) and »Jux« (2017) – the protagonists, in this case appearing in pairs, move through a world that no one can really understand anymore. Almost exuberantly – the thoroughly reserved artist may forgive this exaggeration – the two act in the younger of the two paintings within a comic setting with the “stills” of the suggested strips. The speech bubbles (»I can’t protect you any more«!) help to read the image sequences, but since they are completely out of context, they don’t really help to understand them. Nevertheless, they are worth their weight in gold when it comes to questioning the reality of what is seen. This image-text correlation, by the way, exists throughout Bunk’s oeuvre, and where no words or sentence formations are in the picture, Bunk works in the context of images and things, including image quotations that stimulate an associative or even narrative perception.

An artist as Holger Bunk (as well as you and me) thinks, therefore he is – that much we have learned from Descartes. But we cannot trust these heroes in and around the picture, not even the picture itself: »My picture laughs at me« is the name of one of those from 2012. »Bunk Bunk Bunk Bunk« is written on another, but no matter how he twists and turns himself (in the picture), he finds no certainty about his being. Bunk relates his thoughtworthy alter ego, in whose disorientation we also think we recognize ourselves, to the painted space, which is labyrinthine, mysterious, wobbly-walled, bottomless, built by an avowed fantasist to remind us that we always see reality, however real, through the artist’s glasses and those of our own imagination. Or was it only the painting that is really real after all?

Günter Baumann, October 2020