CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Volker Hermes. Eyes on Time

Exhibition: 3 March - 9 June 2024

The portrait is one of the oldest pictorial subjects known to mankind. Even the Egyptians immortalized people in wall paintings and mummies, while the Greeks and Romans made portrait busts to celebrate rulers and commemorate the deceased. This always involved idealizing them.

Portraiture gained popularity in Renaissance Europe: the “modern” individual was presented in posture and facial expression, in gestures and selected accessories as they saw themselves or wanted to be seen. During the Baroque period, portraiture experienced a heyday: sumptuous robes, pompous draperies and stylized poses were oriented towards the need for representation. Artists always wanted to portray personality and “soul”.

Hidden Portraits

This is where his digital transformations of Volker Hermes depart, which break down norms and paradoxically express the individual by way of concealment. The artist refuses to allow eye contact and instead focusses on garments, ribbons, fans, jewelry and other accessories in the foreground. This reminds us that such accessories decisively determine the identity of the people portrayed. All elements of the digital concealments are to be found in the paintings themselves, which always remain recognizable. This creates an interplay between cover and content, between veiling and revealing, distance and closeness, and also a dialogue between eye and time.

The Suermondt Ludwig Museum has invited the Düsseldorf artist (*1972), who is recognized worldwide for his digital metamorphoses, to interact artistically with six portraits from the museum’s own collection. The results, which can be seen in the portrait room (1st floor), are captivating, humorous and critical of society. They build a bridge to the present day and confront us with current aspects such as equal rights, diversity and the understanding of sexual identity.


Another aspect of Volker Hermes’ oeuvre is shown in the chimney room (ground floor): Nine maritime paintings are exhibited there, all of which are based on historical paintings. They have been given entirely new interpretations and were transformed into compositions in their own right. With his analytical eye, Hermes constructs the seascapes as set pieces according to the principle of sky, horizon and sea and recreates them in a mixture of drawing and painting. Through the use of acrylic, Edding and graffiti markers, all of which have a permanent character, the momentary nature of the depiction is emphasised and the drama intensified by means of lines, abstractions and colour gradients.

Eyes on Time is Volker Hermes’ first solo exhibition in Aachen.

The exhibition is curated by Sarvenaz Ayooghi.