The Visual Conception of Roland Fischer


The visual conception of Roland Fischer


Nadine Brüggebors



Serial working, large formats and formally austere treatment of his pictorial subjects are the central characteristics of Roland Fischer’s photographic œuvre, which is devoted to the themes ‘man’ and ‘architecture’. Fischer has been experimenting since 1980 with large-format portrait shots, which is why he can be included among the trailblazers for artists who have made a name for themselves in these fields such a Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth and Andreas Gursky. After numerous one-man shows, a retrospective was devoted to Fischer in the Munich Pinakothek der Moderne in 2003.

The „Nonnen und Mönche“ [Nuns and Monks] portrait series, created in the 1980s and the result of a longsome work in French monasteries, is one of Fischer’s most important series. It shows members of the Cistercian Order, whose plain habit, framing the still, serious faces, structures the image formally by mean of black and white areas. For his „Los Angeles Portraits„, created in the 1990s, Fischer placed his models in a swimming pool whose smooth, monochrome surface plunged them into a sea of blue or black up to their shoulders. The „Kollektivporträts“ [Collective Portraits] series in its turn emerged as a result of impressions gained on a visit to China, and asks questions about the relationship between the individual and society. Each of the large-format images shows 450 individual shots fitted together to form a collective portrait, with each of the people depicted named. But what these figures have in common is that they belong to one of the four population groups that form the pillars of the community according to the Chinese people’s view of themselves: farmers, steelworkers, students at an elite Peking university and soldiers in the People’s Liberation Army.

A second central thematic area in Roland Fischer’s work as an artist is architecture. In his „Kathedralen“ [Cathedrals] series he uses digital technology to blend the exterior front façades of Spanish and French ecclesiastical buildings into their monumental interiors. Then again in the „Fassadenbilder“ [Façade Pictures] the artist is interested in the surface of focused high-rise façades that begin to work like abstract paintings and show a concern with concepts such as structure, color, rhythm, reduced forms and geometry. Here Fischer is not just detaching the buildings from their urban context, but also from their spatial and temporal fabric, in order to subject them to a formal examination devoted to the abstract surface structure. As Fischer puts it, he is least interested in “the illustrative, in other words the documentary, reportage-like elements etc. in photography as a medium”. (Quoted from exh. cat. Roland Fischer, Pinakothek der Moderne Munich, Cologne 2003, p. 9) So photography’s documentary illustrative function is abandoned in favor of developing pictorial worlds defined aesthetically, formally and in terms of content.