Jürgen Partenheimer was born in 1947, in Munich. In 1968, he started studying art history, history, philosophy, and fine arts. Until 1976, his studies led him from Munich to Tuscon, Arizona, to Guadalajara, Mexico, and to Paris. After receiving his doctorate in art history at the Ludwig Maximilians Universität München, he moved to Düsseldorf in 1977. His first solo exhibition took place at the Richard Demarco Gallery in Edinburgh in 1979. In 1982, Partenheimer was a visiting professor in Montreal and then taught at the San Francisco Art Institute. From 1983 until 1986, he taught at the Art Academy in Düsseldorf, at the University of California, Davis, and in Houston.
Early on, drawings done with pencil, Indian ink, water color, and oil became Partenheimer’s central artistic medium. His work has, moreover, been defined throughout by theoretical investigations of scientific and philosophical models of world perception. In 1983, based on his spiritual notion of art, he started to focus on universal cultural perceptions and examined the mythical sign repertoires and materials of Asian and North American cultures. In Partenheimer’s work, the silhouette-like line that designates shapes and is thus associated with conceptual thinking, becomes a delicate, straying, and reluctant tracing, always deviating from the straight line. In formations of single geometrized motifs, the artist unfolds, on the picture-level, a language-like system rich in references. Its rhythmical interactions seem to contain orders of thinking and concrete models of vision. In an exemplary way, this holds for his early works with pencil on paper, for example, Die Quelle der Wörter ((The Source of Words) 1985) and MEMORIA (1985). Yet it is also significant for his later calligraphic approach in Der Revisor (2000). A further characteristic aspect of his work – it does not lend itself to be divided in chronological stages – is the rhythmical interaction of mathematical and organicist shapes that are juxtaposed in contrasting ways (Wanderschaft (Wanderings) 1985, Metaphysischer Realismus, 2002). Through the insertion of collaged, painted paper fragments, these dynamics of color fields and drawn elements become even denser. They open into spatialized, superimposed scales, constructed overlappings and links whose temporal dimension Partenheimer reflects in his titles (Herangang (Approach), 1988; Zeitstab (Timerod), 1988).
Starting in 1987, the artist has expanded the technical repertoire of his works, using linocut and etching and turning towards encaustic methods. This technical variability proved especially useful for his book projects, the artist book Giant Wall (1990) marking a focal point in his work.
Aside from his focus on drawing, Partenheimer also devoted himself to sculpture, starting in 1980 with single works (Anna Livia Plurabelle, 1983). From 1991 on, further sculptural works emerged. They take up the curving, meandering structure of his drawings (Fraktale Schleife (Fractal Bow), 1994) and sometimes consist of object-like, cubist elements whose enigmatic spectrum of interpretation attracted the artist’s interest (Weltachse (World Axis), 1994; Wunschkasten (Wishbox), 2003). With the installing of his Weltachse in front of the Emperor’s Archive in the Forbidden City and the international symposium »Crossmapping – Partenheimer in China« (2001), the artist emphasized the transcultural approach of his works.
Aside from his artistic work, Partenheimer was also involved in a comprehensive theoretical project which he published as co-editor of the journal Irrawaddy (1981 — 1983) and in the poetic manifesto »De Coloribus – Versuch über die Farben« (»De Coloribus – An Experiment with Colors«) of 1991.
In 1986, Partenheimer participated in the Venice Biennale. From 1987 until 1990, he was professor at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam and, in 1991, also taught in Edinburgh. He became known through numerous solo and group exhibitions, for example at the Nationalgalerie Berlin (1988), at the Hamburger Kunsthalle (1990), at the Kunstmuseum Bonn (1994), and at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (1997).
Jürgen Partenheimer lives and works near Cologne.
Jürgen Partenheimer – Der Schein der Dinge: Ausst.-Kat. Museum am Ostwall, Düsseldorf 2004
Jürgen Partenheimer – La robe des choses: Ausst.-Kat. Stedelijk Museum voor Aktuele Kunst, Gent 2002