Jürgen Partenheimer: The Archive – The Raven Diaries

Gallery Hours
Tuesday to Sunday
  • About
  • Exhibitions
  • Events
  • Learning
  • Shop
  • Join/Give
  • Blog

Jürgen Partenheimer: The Archive – The Raven Diaries



12 Sep, 2014 to 09 Nov, 2014

Use left (←) and right (→) arrow keys or swipe gestures on a touch device to navigate image gallery.

Jürgen Partenheimer
The Archive – The Raven Diaries
September 12 to November 9, 2014

The Contemporary Art Gallery presents the first solo exhibition in Canada of work by acclaimed German artist Jürgen Partenheimer. Reflecting the diversity of the artist’s practice, the exhibition comprises works on paper, text, printmaking, ceramics and sculpture, much of it produced in Vancouver in spring 2014 during his recent residency as the Audain Distinguished Artist-in-Residence, hosted by Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

Partenheimer’s work is essentially abstract; his drawings and paintings, caught seemingly on the verge of dissolution, are remarkable for their fragile beauty, whilst sculpture and ceramic work, suggesting some usefulness, remain elusive with respect to any specific function. His artistic proposition is philosophical, encouraging us to challenge the distinction normally made between reality and imagination. Drawing is used as a means to suggest new pictorial space, linking our experience of place through mapping and gesture, through mark-making. His visual language, the particular form of poetic abstraction, creates a system of open, meditative boundaries. As such this conceptual approach, his life-long interest in notions of representation and his thoughtful, meticulous consideration of locality, space and place, suggest a key resonance with artistic practice in the city, asserting continuity between these forms and an experience of daily life.

The conceptual framework for the exhibition is “The archive” as the artist’s physical and mental “storage”, uniting the remembered and the present, as well as individual and cultural memory. Just as the publicly institutionalized archive is a medium of memory, a place to which cultural works are entrusted, human memory is an archive that constantly creates new relational meanings from changing perspectives. The imaginary archive that gives the exhibition and associated book its title has at its disposal the visually experienced basis of a materially tangible and visually representable inventory: it is based on the oeuvre of the artist, on works that were created in different places, are currently part of public or private collections, and form meaningful relationships between people and spaces. At the same time, artworks as “archival materials” are clearly more than mere repositories of information. They are the visible expression of both intellect and emotion; they carry traces of their process of creation and their temporality and correspond with other objects, whether through their motif or the context of their creation. To this end, in Vancouver the exhibition has a subtitle, The Raven Diaries, referencing the symbol and characteristics of the Raven to west coast First Nations culture, while simultaneously drawing analogies to similar figures in cultural myths elsewhere in the world, and especially to the role of the artist as trickster, representative of a catalyst for change in life, for wisdom, creativity and humour.

Partenheimer’s unique approach to art-making opens new possibilities of understanding an essential interconnectivity between disciplines and fields of thought, insight into the permeability of abstraction into daily life, as well as offering a consideration into how art can incorporate audiences in its very structure. His work is abstract while suggestive of other tangible forms; historical yet refreshingly contemporary; intimate yet public and oscillating within these seeming dualities Partenheimer produces layered, poetic works that speak to social systems of communication and expression while acknowledging the specificity of place.

Alongside the exhibition at the Contemporary Art Gallery, we have worked in partnership with the Museum of Anthropology. In their Koerner European Ceramics Gallery, housing a unique 600-piece collection of 16th-19th century European ceramics, we present two recent works by Partenheimer. These porcelain vessels are part of an extensive series of forms made in 2013 at the Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenberg, Munich, Germany, as part of their annual invitation to a contemporary artist to work with the factory and skilled artisans to produce a body of new work. Seen here juxtaposed with objects from the same manufacture but of a different time, they provide a counterpoint to the historical collections, connecting us back to a space of the imagination through the perception of the world of things.

Four institutions joined together in a partnership showing various aspects of Partenheimer’s work: the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, the Falckenberg Collection, Deichtorhallen Hamburg, the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag and the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver. All four exhibitions have independent installation concepts related to their locations and spaces, and open up various subjective and reflexive realms of experience to visitors. The accompanying book provides a “fifth space” where through a series of commissioned essays, philosophers, historians, artists and poets, reflect on the multi-faceted nature of Partenheimer’s work through an examination of ideas and themes present in his practice.

As part of the Vancouver New Music Festival, the Vancouver Electronic Ensemble will create an improvised performance responding to Partenheimer’s work. See public events section for further details.


The exhibition is generously supported by Jane Irwin and Ross Hill, and with assistance from Niki Design and Glass Studio Inc., North Vancouver.


Jürgen Partenheimer (1947, born in Munich, Germany) participated in the XI Paris Biennial, XVI Biennial in São Paulo and XLII Venice Biennial, leading to the inclusion in exhibitions among others at The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the National Gallery Washington; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; The Singapore Art Museum; Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon; Fondacion Miró, Barcelona; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Madrid; Museum Ludwig, Cologne and the National Gallery of Art in Berlin.

In 2000 Partenheimer was the first contemporary German artist to whom the China National Gallery of Art in Beijing and the Nanjing Museum in Nanjing dedicated a comprehensive retrospective of his work. Important one person exhibitions include the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Gemeentemuseum, The Hague; S.M.A.K. Ghent; IVAM, Valencia; CGAC -Centro Galego de Arte Contemporànea, Santiago de Compostela, Spain; Nationalgalerie Berlin; Kunstmuseum Bonn; Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe; Staedelsches Kunstinstitut Frankfurt; Pinacoteca do Estado, São Paulo and Ikon Gallery, Birmingham.

Awards, grants and residencies include the Art Critics’ Prize of Madrid, Spain; the National Endowment of the Arts Award, New York; Arteleku Grant, Basque Ministry of Culture, San Sebastian; the Grand Prize for Visual Art, Germany; the Federal Cross of Merit of Germany for outstanding international achievement; Copan, Artist-in-Residence Award, Sao Paulo, Brazil; the Nietzsche Grant, Artist-in-Residence, Sils-Maria, Switzerland; Guest of Honour Residency at the German Academy, Villa Massimo in Rome and the Nirox Foundation residency award, Johannesburg, South Africa.

His work has been widely published internationally. Among others, monographs include: Cantos, Amsterdam, 1997; Fragments, Karlsruhe, 1998; Cantos y otras mentiras / songs and other lies, Valencia, 1999; CrossMapping, Beijing, 2000; Architecture-Sculpture, The Hague, 2001; La robe des choses, Ghent, 2002; Suave Loucura-Gentle Madness, Sao Paulo, 2005; Roma-Sao Paulo Drawings and Copan Diary, Sao Paulo, 2007; Metaphysical Landscape, Basel, 2007; Discontinuity, Paradox and Precision, Birmingham/Bonn, 2008; Lemke, Berlin, 2011; Seeds & Tracks and Folded Spirits, Cologne, 2012; Kalliope, Munich/Cologne, 2013.







Jürgen Partenheimer  


Related Event

James Langdon
A School for Design Fiction
September 2014

As our contribution to Vancouver Design Week, the CAG is
working with James Langdon, recipient of the 2012 Inform
Award for Conceptual Design, presented by the Museum
of Contemporary Art Leipzig, Germany. Langdon will
offer a short course in reading objects, environments and
messages. Stimulated by the curious genre of design fiction, the programme asserts storytelling as the primary function of design. Langdon will conduct a three day workshop on September 16–18 exploring narrative approaches to design, a series of connected exercises subjecting a collection of found materials to various manual and conceptual processes.

The workshop is not concerned with speculative design or futurism, but with documenting and manipulating the narrative potential of ordinary artefacts through conside ration of their essence; their relations with each other; and the meanings they might be made to express.

Space is limited to 12 participants. further information at
[email protected] or 604 681 2700.


James Langdon - A School for Design Fiction


Related Learning

Anthropologist Bălășescu specializes in material culture, the body, consumption and cultural aspects of economy. He is the author of Paris Chic, Tehran Thrills, Aesthetic Bodies, Political Subjects (ZetaBooks, 2007) and taught at the National School of Political and Administrative Studies, Bucharest; American University in Paris; University of California, Irvine; Royal University for Women, Bahrain and Galatasaray University, Istanbul. He worked as deputy director for the Romanian Cultural Institute ‘Dimitrie Cantemir’ in Istanbul and is currently based in Vancouver, interested in urban ecology and social business models.

This series invites cultural and critical producers to present thoughts and ideas rooted in their own interests and practices, and invites audiences to join in the conversations that will explore relevant contemporary issues, theories, ideas and culture.


Feedback Series Talk | Alec Balasescu


Related Learning

Kimberly Phillips responds to the work of Jurgen Partenheimer. Director/Curator at Access Gallery, Phillips holds a doctorate in art history from the University of British Columbia, where she focused on the complexity of German collective memory as negotiated through ephemeral artistic interventions in the public realm of post-1989 Berlin. She is a sessional instructor at Emily Carr University of Art + Design and the University of British Columbia, where she teaches courses on the history of visual culture, cultural theory and curatorial practice. During her recent residency at 221A, she collaborated with Vanessa Kwan present a solo exhibition of work by Kara Uzelman accompanied by the publication Unknown Objects, featuring a text by the poet and essayist Lisa Robertson.

This series invites cultural and critical producers to present thoughts and ideas rooted in their own interests and practices, and invites audiences to join in the conversations that will explore relevant contemporary issues, theories, ideas and culture.


Feedback Series Talk | Kimberly Phillips


Related Learning

Jürgen Partenheimer
Thursday, May 8, 6pm
Emily Carr University of Art + Design
Room 301, 1399 Johnston Street, Granville Island

This special event involves multiple voices approaching notions of abstraction from a variety of poetic, philosophical and theoretical standpoints by Audain Distinguished Artist-in-Residence Jürgen Partenheimer. Born in Munich in 1947, Partenheimer studied the theory and practice of art in Germany, the USA, Mexico and France. As a representative of a subjective abstraction, he is considered one of the most important contemporary artists of Germany. With theory, poetry and prose as his referential grammar for artistic expression, Partenheimer’s work encompasses painting, drawing, sculpture and text. Marked by a post-minimalist background and a poetic intensity, his art has been referred to as metaphysical realism. He became internationally renowned following his participation in the Paris, Venice and São Paulo Biennials, and in 2000 became the first contemporary German artist to have a retrospective in China at the National Museum of Art in Beijing. His work has been part of major exhibitions including The Museum of Modern Art in New York and San Francisco, the Miró Foundation in Barcelona and the Museum Ludwig in Cologne.

Featuring guest appearances by Nigel Prince, Nicholas Lea, Mayko Nguyen and Aoife MacNamara.

Partenheimer’s work has received many national and international prizes and awards, among others the Art Critics’ Prize of Madrid, Spain; the NEA Grant, National Endowment of the Arts, New York; Canada Council Grant, Montréal and the Federal Cross of Merit of Germany for outstanding international achievement. Partenheimer has taught as Professor, Distinguished Visiting Professor and Visiting artist among others at San Francisco Art Institute; Academy of Fine Arts, Düsseldorf, University of California at Davis; Rijks Academy in Amsterdam; Royal College of Art, Edinburgh; Rhode Island School of Design and WITS School of Arts in Johannesburg.

Partenheimer’s residency at Emily Carr takes place from February – May, 2014 in preparation for an exhibition at the Contemporary Art Gallery in the fall of 2014. The exhibition in Vancouver forms part of an open cooperation with the Pinakothek der Moderne München (The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Munich); Falckenberg Collection, Deichtorhallen, Hamburg and the Gemeentemuseum The Hague, exploring site and space-related installation concepts. Parallel to the different exhibitions, all of which will be held in 2014, the participating institutions closely worked on a publication with the artist that aims at commenting on and integrating the various aspects of his work as an additional ‘fifth room’. International authors from a variety of different disciplines, including Anne Carson, Lebogang Mashile, Carla Schulz-Hoffmann, Antje v. Graevenitz, John Burnside, Oswald Egger and Rudi Fuchs, have taken up the invitation to write contributions and become involved in this project. Published by Distanz Publishers, Berlin, 2014.

Established in 2012, the Audain Distinguished Artist in Residence Program has a mandate to bring nationally and internationally renowned contemporary artists to Vancouver, create curriculum specific to each individual visiting artist, and support the creation of new works. Adopting a flexible model that encourages experimentation, collaboration, dialogue and engagement, the program will benefit artists, the academic community, the Vancouver art community at large, and will greatly contribute to Vancouver’s stature within the international art world. The Program, housed within the Audain School of Visual Arts encompassing the Faculty of Visual Arts + Material Practice, provides support for two artists per year to live and work in Vancouver for a one to three month period, and includes living and travel expenses, support for production costs, exhibitions and honoraria.

Please note that Aoife MacNamara’s reading has been removed due to technical difficulties. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenient.


Video | Jürgen Partenheimer - Renga: Dimensions of Abstraction


Related Blog Posts

As well as the opening of the CAG’s new exhibition: Jürgen Partenheimer, The Archive – The Raven Diaries comes a new voice for the gallery’s blog!

Hello there I’m Chloe and though I’m new to you, I am not new to the gallery. In fact I’ve been here since 2012, when I first nervously stumbled through the Gallery doors in hopes of becoming a volunteer. Now almost 3 years later I’ve served not only as a volunteer, but as the gallery’s publicity intern and presently as communications intern where they’ve bestowed upon me enough trust to let me talk to you (via the blog of course). If you’re still a little apprehensive about the change, I’ll appease you by also letting you know that I’m studying in the arts field as a Critical and Cultural Practices major at Emily Carr University of Art + Design and that I’m about to graduate, which means I must be doing something right!

I’m very excited for you and I to start this journey together! Over the next few months we’ll be delving into the works of German artist Jürgen Partenheimer and Swedish artist Gunilla Klingberg. We’ll also be going back into the CAG’s archives to take a look back on past exhibitions and how they play out in contemporary art today.

Let’s begin!

As it goes for most exhibition openings, you can feel the buzz of energy as you make your way into the gallery and through the crowds,walking past half empty catering trays and groups of art enthusiasts eagerly chatting away about what they’ve come to see. Partenheimer’s work presents itself ideal to this environment as, with the exception of a small sculptural piece and a plinth or two, his work takes the form of coffee book sized pieces of paper pinned to the wall.

Though the pieces are made out of a common material, it is what Partenheimer has added to the pages which draws you in. The works are full of abstract forms which, on their own seem to have very little context, yet once placed together within the same gallery space seem to play off one and other in a way that just makes sense. The artist has also been able to take his two dimensional paper canvases and bring them into the third dimension through his use of colour. The dark blacks pull the viewer into the piece, just as the neon oranges they are paired with pop right back out.

Along the wall, accompanying the pieces composed of abstracted painted lines, notes, from what seems to be a journal, are hung. What is interesting in their proximity is that, for viewers who are less familiar with the artists native language of German, these notes quickly begin to meld themselves to the pieces made up of abstract lines, becoming a sort of abstract composition themselves.

Partenheimer’s show is a great introduction to abstract art for those who are newer to the art scene, whilst also being of great interest for the veterans of the art world. A show which presents pleasantly curated pieces of which one can chose to enjoy for what they are as objects or get carried away into the role the play within contemporary art today.


CAG Shop


Visit CAG

555 Nelson Street
Vancouver, British Columbia
Canada V6B 6R5

T 00 1 604 681 2700
F 00 1 604 683 2710

Gallery Hours
Tues – Sun 12 – 6 pm

  • Closed on British Columbia statutory holidays
  • The galleries are wheelchair accessible
  • The Gallery is free of charge
  • Suggested donation of $5

Reference Library


CAG Shop



Become a Member

The CAG is a not-for-profit reliant on member support. As a Member of the CAG, you are supporting contemporary art now and playing a role in its future.

Make a Donation

Help support the only free public art gallery in Vancouver.
Donate Now

  • Connectarrow