The Low Art of Christoph Niemann

To feel more comfortable on the humble side of life: that’s perhaps the mark of a true humorist. As I skimmed through these ink drawings of Christoph Niemann online, I ran into a rather simple image portraying a hen somewhere along the Mekong River and I thought, “There. That’s the artist at his best.” I didn’t care too much for the animation of Angkor Wat at sunrise, however suggestive it is, nor for the boutique-boat sliding down the river, a gratifying exercise in light, undoubtedly, nor for the picturesque scene of a local girl cleaning fish at the market. I liked the black-spotted bird under the black-spotted dress hanging against exuberance, the cartoonish arm waving over the current at dusk and blotting it white, the loaded cargo tricycle with a motorbike on top.

Among Tralach, Cambodia, 2019.

The line between the serious and the comical is tenuous and unstable. All the more so in a repertory as casual and unrestricted as Niemann’s. He prefers techniques like watercolor and ink, traditionally related to temporary results. He sketches. He improvises, very much like a jazz musician. True to the designer’s calling, he simplifies. But despite this tendency, there’s a serious vein in him.

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