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Norman Mailer Pretty Grenade (2008/09) is a little piece of brutality in sweet colours. The work hangs virtuously on the wall—shimmering enigmatically between candy pink and toxic green—as a crinkled something. But beware! When approached, the pretty flower umbel is converted at lightning speed in the mind of the observer into what it in reality purports to artistically repre- sent: a hand grenade. When a beam of light hits the jagged surface, the coziness is gone for good. The image explodes in a fireworks of wildly reflected beams of colour, breaks open into splintering reflections and reaches out into the surroundings. In the uncontrolled eruption of the visual, whether as particle or as wave or as both at the same time, the image’s claim to truth is shown to be a dangerously beautiful illusion—and that ad absurdum. “What happens is all chaotic, and nothing but confusion is predictable. The visible spectrum we live in is only a tiny fraction of the full spectrum of what really is. Nothing can be trusted to be as it seems.” The person who expressed this is a qualified physicist, none other than the inventor of treacherous antitheses like Pretty Grenade. Simon Raab, who studied sur- face physics and has a doctorate in mechanical engineering, has operated for most of his life with great success on the borders between science and industry. For a number of years, however, he has made his fundamental skepticism of reality and truth the basis for a new career. Since then, he has defined the laws of his (pictorial) worlds himself as being in the field of high tension between physics and metaphysics. The artistic idea does not have to follow a logic. It requires no rational explanation. Its right to exist arises solely from its capacity to postulate and generate complex powers of imagination. Art is in the privileged position of not having to tell the truth. In this respect, art has perhaps an advantage over science, because it can achieve astounding things through the simple symbolic representation of complex facts. Art does not illustrate science, philosophy, or even questions of belief, but it makes the abstraction that exists in these disciplines comprehensible. Mark Dion Simon Raab has traded in his doubts about the truth of science for the ongoing fascination of art. In the balancing act between creating and fail- ing, he now assures himself of the separate sovereignty of meaning and art. In doing so, he vaults to a new level in the lifelong spiral movement toward self-development and freedom. Born in 1952 in the French city of Toulouse as the son of an exile Czech father and a mother from Luxemburg, Raab grew up in Canada stimulated by a creative family atmosphere in which he experienced his mother as a landscape painter and an uncle as a sculptor and glass designer. It is no wonder then that, at the age of 16, he initially put his hand to metal and glass sculpture but then began to study physics in order to quickly follow in his father’s footsteps. Less than a year after completing his doctorate in mechanical engineering in 1981, Simon Raab established his own interna- tionally successful business for computer-supported high-precision meas- uring equipment. He has taken out 70 patents for his measuring software for the creation of digital 3D models and for laser devices that continue to be used today in the highly complex fields of medical technology—such as in the healing of bone fractures or in eye surgery. He was involved for twenty years in inventing his devices to serve people, and was simply active—without consciously wanting to be—on the other side of the coin called the magic of the modern. And like an arcane line of continuity, one aspect is apparent through his whole biography: his work with and on light. The truth of art keeps science from becoming inhuman, and the truth of science keeps art from becoming ridiculous. Raymond Chandler Simon Raab makes light the protagonist of his art, since the multi-dimen- sionality of his refined assemblies of material and colour first becomes vis- ible through the interplay of light and surface as the observer moves in the space. Light becomes the image-constituting power, while the artist subtly choreographs the perception of his public. It is thus that the atten- tiveness that his art requires to make its appearance develops. Simon Raab creates his relief-like and voluminous images in an intricate, almost alchemical working process that proves to be a concentrated bal- ancing of calculation and improvisation. At first, there is a loose idea in his mind, an object that does not let him go, or a feeling that has gotten stuck. The artist, stimulated internally, then searches for a a platform on which to operate: large-format sheets of aluminium or steel become the starting point for the adventure of creating form. On its shining surface, the painter applies vibrant, quick drying acrylic paint in numerous layers as a translu- cent glaze. In this way, motifs that glimmer representationally are created as if seen through sheets of cellophane. The individual brushstroke remains visible and is linked, over multiple layers of colour down to the bare metal, into a sparkling texture of expression. Already at this stage, the light and its colourfully refracted reflection achieve an enor- mous impact. But it is in the next step that Simon Raab first gives his images the deci- sive inflection in space and depth. He folds and forms, bends and dents, presses and crimps—now wholly the sculptor—the coloured surface into a richly faceted relief. Steering this essentially violent process to a sure result is inconceivable without the stupendous knowledge of materials of the physicist. Folded aluminium takes form more pliably and gleams in sil- ver elegance, while the more darkly reflecting steel is characterized by splintered surfaces and sharp angles. These explosive topographies are stabilized on the reverse using synthetic resin. The frames are also inte- grated into the vortex movement of the material and of the colours and the reflected light. In this way, the window of the image opens up into the space of the observer. The dynamic within the image would seem to be able to continue to infinity. Deformable space, particles in two places at the same time, flowing probabilities … alas, to be closest to reality, we must let go of every preconception and false anchor. Simon Raab