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Maria Müller-Schareck

Extract from „Living Together in Sin”[1] 

from »Looking Pictures«, Verlag für moderne Kunst Nürnberg, 2010


The pictorial principles of collage are a recurrent theme, more obvious at times than others, throughout Christopher Muller’s oeuvre, which, alongside still lifes, landscapes and portraits, includes a group of over 30 collages. These collages consist of two, three or four images of diverse size and origin combined in small or medium formats, varying in dimension from 10 x 25 cm to 21 x 100 cm. The shared edge or seam is usually a perpendicular straight line that runs parallel to the edge of the picture. Instead of presenting them the right way up, Muller frequently rotates the images, apparently arbitrarily.

This group of works is heralded by a picture, programmatically entitled Collage from 1997, in which the artist combines three photographically generated images. The „still life“ featuring newspapers, a pocket calculator, financial documents, pens, spectacles and a coffee cup, replete with centrefold crease, is clearly taken from a business magazine. Muller adds a dramatically cropped photographic image of some tools on a white surface and a further image of a studio situation with slides, a light box, some negatives and a pair of scissors. Adjacent to the „still life“ with coffee cup, which is the right way up, the narrow segment with the tools is rotated by 90° while the studio situation is rotated by 180° so as to be turned on its head. One is tempted to take the small panel down from the wall and to turn it so that these images are the right way up, in order to satisfactorily identify all the elements within the picture. Christopher Muller has juxtaposed photographed and re-photographed still lifes that, in different ways, refer to the conditions of artistic production: the studio situation with the as yet unprinted images, the tools (folding rule, hammer) for hanging the finished picture and finally the economic framework (calculator, stock market prices) in which the artwork becomes a commodity. Clearly Muller is here reflecting on his art and his role as an artist at various levels. That he should do so in his very first collage and title the picture accordingly indicates the meaning that the principles of collage have within his work. This is underlined by the prominently positioned pair of scissors: a tool so indispensable as to be a prerequisite for making collages in the analogue era. Thanks to the current possibilities of digital manipulation it now only refers back to the process of cutting up and reconvening that is at the heart of every collage.

Already in 1994, Hannelore Kersting observed that in Muller’s still lifes “like in a collage, the single elements largely retain their individuality, but due to their relation to a new context and because of new neighbourhoods they gain additional meaning….”..[2] Later Joseph P. Huston concluded that “the concepts of collage, order, and reordering maintain an invariance throughout the work.” [3]. This is as true of the landscapes and portraits as it is of the still lifes. The manual feel of collage with its form generating cuts, overlapping and juxtaposition of different surface and material qualities, plays a subordinate role in the photocollage as the ruptured surface of the source material is unified by re-photographing it. In Muller’s collages the sutures are only visible under the surface of the photograph, which is printed directly on an aluminium support by means of a newly developed digital printing technique.


At the end of a row of unassuming everyday objects in the still life The Lonely Are the Brave, 1996, a container of bird sand meets a model bicycle displayed in a clearly labelled, partially transparent box. Twelve years later they meet again in the collage Vogelsand (see p. xxx). Such juxtapositions may appear random but a direct comparison shows that the respective surrounds decisively alter the impression the objects make. On a reflective surface, in front of a white wall, at the end of a row of objects, they take up their positions in an orchestrated interplay of cylindrical and rectangular forms. Despite discrepancies in size and colour – all items are reproduced to scale – the partially stacked objects are aligned to create a rhythm in which no single object dominates. Our gaze wanders along the row of objects from left to right, pauses and travels back. Irritatingly, aligned alongside the containers and boxes is an almost flat object, a photograph, whose surface and image elude our visual grasp. The stage is being prepared for the collages in which flat images and, in a few instances, photographically foreshortened objects are juxtaposed on a single picture plane. Vogelsand, for example, is both still life and collage. The container is positioned in front of a dark, grainy piece of wood so as to be contiguous with the packaging. Both objects have been dramatically cropped. The dark shadows at the edge of the container form vertical lines that could easily be read as the perpendicular seams of a collage due to the compromised depth cues.


[1] The figurative meaning of the french word collage can indicate "living in sin", or rather the "state of cohabitation of a man and woman who are not married", cf. Paul Robert: Dictionnaire alphabétique et analogique de la langue française, cit. in: Werner Spies: Max Ernst Collagen. Inventar und Widerspruch, Cologne 1975, p.18.

[2] Hannelore Kersting: „Still Life“, in: exhib. cat. Christopher Muller, Städtisches Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach, 1994, p. 26.

[3] Joseph P. Huston: „Quality flow“, in: Christopher Muller. Seeing things, Verlag für Moderne Kunst, Nürnberg 2002, p. 118.



Collage, 1997, 13 x 33 cm, C-print behind perspex


The Lonely Are the Brave, 1996, 29 x 112 cm, C-print behind perspex


Vogelsand, 2008, 15 x 49 cm, C-print / framed