Rolf Kluenter is an artist who is full of energy, inspiration and seemingly limitless ideas. He himself has had a wide range of influences in his life. He was born in Germany and grew up there. But after Rolf’s graduation, instead of going to New York and doing what was expected of him, he chose to forge his own path and moved to Katmandu, where he spent over 15 years. The influence that his life in Nepal has had on him is very apparent in Rolf’s work, not only from the Nepalese paper that he uses in much of his work, but also conceptually. The artist has also spent the past 7+ years in Shanghai, where he has married a Shanghainese woman, adding even more Asian influence on the artist’s life. Rolf Kluenter has spent more than half of his life in Asia, and we sometimes joke that he is now more Asian than German!
Rolf is an innovator. He is an artist who will probably never stop experimenting with new media. When visiting his studio, one never knows what amazing inspirations Rolf will have recently had. He is not afraid and does not hesitate to try new things, which is the mother of creativity and invention. In fact, a good artist is always looking for something new, something different to express. And Rolf is certainly that way. For example, the artist has recently been experimenting with using stainless steel, wires and bulbs and even women’s lipstick as media for his work. Rolf is probably the first artist to use old Nepalese black manuscripts within his artworks; he subsequently even developed the medium even further, and it is now something unique to Rolf.
The special black paper Rolf uses is still all produced in Nepal and shipped to the artist. Rolf explains that black is the ultimate non-colour, the ultimate void. While white is all colours combined, black indicates the absence of light, the very thing which reflects colour in our eyes. Rolf is fascinated with the “colour” black, and sometimes cuts out star-like shapes within the void to indicate the existence of the physical within the tremendous amount of nothingness that is space. The black “nothingness” is also interwoven together in a kind of three-dimensional way, so that it becomes impossible to tell the beginning or the end of the void. Clearly, this series of work indicates Rolf’s deep philosophical reflection on existence.
It is ironic that after a long career of experimenting with so many different media, Rolf has only recently, for the first time, begun painting with the traditional medium of oil on canvas. Even the artist himself laughed at how ironic it is that he is finally using such a “normal” medium. Yet the layered abstract paintings are closely related to his black paper work. Rolf’s oil paintings still balance nothingness with the physical world, as Rolf has 3-dimensionalized the canvas by painting abstract layer upon layer.