Sebastian Lettner

ciel à la carte

The title of the exhibition by Sebastian Lettner is inspired by a line of Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem “Prose”. Obviously its original meaning changed, because the words are a little different and taken out of their context – it brings up the association of the saying “the sky is at your feet”, resonating also within the grainy black and white photograph, which is showing three boys on a beach, or some similar place, and a girl lying in the background, looking in their direction. The boys seem to be engaged in a game with each other, posing and showing off, while it is not clear if they pay attention to the girl. Or maybe they just pretend not to pay attention while actually trying to impress her. We do not know if the girl is really interested in them or just glancing over, while enjoying the sun.

In a seemingly typical scenario, a scene recalling the condition of youth, put together with its title ciel à la carte – the promise of youth, that everything is wide open and possible on a single summer's afternoon. As a frozen moment in time, the whole situation changes potentially completely just a little later and it is just within this very unique setting that our perception of the situation becomes apparent.

In poetry you always need a blank space around your words, which will enable them to radiate fully and it is this void in which Sebastian Lettner is mostly interested in, as an artist, mostly as a painter, but also as a poet. The setting of an exhibition, when different contradictory elements are supposed to create a very certain way of perception needs to fulfill the promise of this blank space. In this sense it becomes more of a resonance chamber of a mood, atmosphere or a certain feeling. It is just to a certain point that the artist will be able to decide how what is shown will be perceived and how the interaction of colors, shapes and light creates this very particular meaning.

Certainly our ability to see is dependent on our knowledge, our thoughts and our experiences. Nevertheless every now and then moments of unbiased vision occur, moments in which the world shows itself as it really is, moments that carry a veracity in themselves, which point beyond seeing normally. One turns more to intuitive or associative grasping, to experiences that are more open and porous.

Perception is not static and therefore it should be questioned over and over again. As in poetry when different thoughts and meanings are brought together, this “lack of clarity” or “lack of stability”, the collapse of knowledge as to what painting nowadays is or can be, is the best reason for doing it.

Et non comme pleure la rive,
Quand son jeu monotone ment
A vouloir que l’ampleur arrive
Parmi mon jeune étonnement

D’ouïr tout le ciel et la carte
Sans fin attestés sur mes pas
Par le flot même qui s’écarte,
Que ce pays n’exista pas.


And not as the riverbank weeps
When its tedious game tells lies
Claiming abundance should reach
Into my first surprise

On hearing the whole sky and the map
Behind my steps, without end, bear witness
By the ebbing wave itself that
This country never existed.