Wolfgang Müller is not a drawing artist. He is neither a musician nor an actor, neither a writer nor a master, neither a gallerist nor a wine merchant. And yet he is all of these at once: A "genial dilletant". In West Berlin in 1980, together with Käthe Kruse and Nikolaus Utermöhlen, he forms the legendary artists' group "Die Toödliche Doris". Since then the trio have been surprising us with a naive/ironic mixture of New Wave and Performance. With shrill humour and merciless provocation, they devote themselves to every imaginable kind of banality in our everyday life. "Die Toödliche Doris" quickly reaches a cult status, they are responsible for spectacular performances all over the country.
Müller, Kruse and Utermöhlen venture into the visual art trade in 1985, with a set of work entitled "Über die Gesamtheit des Lebens und alles Darüberhinausgehende (On the totality of life and everything beyond)". The series of 44 abstract paintings portray a movement, following the mechanics of a flip book. The individual images mark the process of something fundamentally inmaterial: the dynamics. This play with the fugitive extends right through the work of "Die Toödliche Doris". Their seventh and last record proves to be a stroke of genius in this vein. It is not actually pressed on black vinyl but can only be grasped when one plays the LP's "Unser Debut" and "sechs" simultaneously - conceptionalism à la Kreuzberg.
Müller, the intellectual motor behind the trio, further continues with the paradoxical hunt for the inmaterial even after the group's break-up in the year 1987. The artist explains his working method concisely in 1989: "if I'm interested in the passage of time, for example, then I'd have a picture with a clock in it, with one hand showing 12 o'clock and another showing 1 o'clock. I illustrate everything that interests me."
Müller carries out a hiking trip between crests of the visible and the unvisible in his work on paper in the early '90s. The figurative motives, sparsely put down on the white sheet, follow the principle of the omission. Transparent paper is employed in addition, with which he sometimes covers individual parts, sometimes the entire sheet. The transparent paper itself serves as a second layer to be drawn on. The ludicrous "Wecker auf überhosenbeinen (Alarm clock on trouser legs)" attains its formal totality purely from this most fragile folding of two layers of images. The clock, as an object already symbolising transience, becomes an ephemeral manifestation.
In the series "Sympathetischen Tintenzeichnungen (sympathetic ink drawings)" (1992), Müller falls back on a means with which he has had some experience back in his school days: the secret ink. An ink is made out of a solution of cobalt (II) chloride and a little potassium permanganate, and its colour changes from blue and pink, according to the temperature and humidity of the environment. In order to achieve this effect, he installs the loose sheets in perspex cases. A small opening lets atmospheric changes into these frame-like containers and allows the ink's chemical reaction. An effective fixation of the highly schematised, in part hardly perceptible, drawings can, therefore, not be guaranteed. One must, however, always take into consideration how these drawings evaporate like water, as one of the works shows.
Britta Färber in "Zeitgenössische Kunst in der Deutschen Bank, pp.84, Dumont Cologne, 1994
(1) Title of a collection of essays, of which Müller was the editor, for Merve-Verlag in 1982.
(2) "Uninteressant. Ein Selbstgespräch von und mit Wolfgang Müller" in Martin Schmitz (Ed.), Die allerallerschönsten Interviews von Wolfgang Müller (Lehrmeister aus der Schule der Tödlichen Doris), Kassel 1989, pp.53.