Paradox and the Ghost Paintings of Alf Lohr

a dialogue in the making: unedited so far

hi mark,

PS  I attach some new work. These are randomly painted bed sheets. The paint gets on them as they are used to dry the paintings. There is pile of 40 paintings standing in the room with their back to the viewer what get to see instead are these lit up sheets. Unintentional  paintings I call them. They are full of images of ghosts, like my sub conscious. As a text I was thinking of adding random thoughts. As the paintings are not intentional why should the text be. If the random thought is good one, it will geo well with the painting/bed sheet.I like the directness in it but as usual I am getting no response. HaHa  Its a like making parcels with concepts and objects instead of books with thoughts and observations, and then sending them to Mars in the hope some one , one day will see the continuity.




hi alf,

that you’re work continues to develop in really interesting ways against all the odds, is truly impressive.

i find the ghost painting very interesting. in part because, i think, they are not ‘unintentional’ at all. that’s the thing about the ‘unconscious’, it’s full of completely intended forces, it’s just that they are ONLY ‘unconscious’ to ‘consciousness’….  but i think it’s very clear, that ‘consciousness’ is a pretty ‘unconscious’ state of being… so why should consciousness get to decide that the ‘unconscious’ is ‘unintentional’?

a bit of a paradox…. but that doesn’t make it untrue.

so, if the ghost paintings are created by layers of ‘consciously’ produced paintings, then every layer is itself also conscious, even though it’s something of a shadow of the original that has left its trace on the sheet.

but, a ‘paler’ version of the original consciousness, is not less conscious or intended, only more dimly so.

so, the ghosts paintings are palimpsests made of a series of intentional, conscious painting choices.

and, you consciously choose when you think a particular ghost painting is finished.

so, QED… your ghosts paintings are not unintentional at all, but a record of your series of conscious paintings that just happen to be superimposed on each other.

so, if every layer is the shadowy record of your conscious decisions, then the sum of the layers must also be conscious, shadowy perhaps, as incomplete impressions of the originals, but no less conscious.

its just that your ‘method’ of producing the ghosts paintings has added an additional step to your process – the repetition of the impressions of the different ‘originals’ over time.

it may be that your ghost paintings are the most intentional of all, and may be the culmination of your years of  investigative processes that you’ve long sought.

such ironclad logic cannot be refuted, my dear friend. and Aristotle would agree.

i think you are the most interesting painter on the planet.

and i’m not bullshitting.

i’m very serious, despite the seeming ‘absurdity’ of paradox of my logic… which is why the best response to their intentional truth is to LAUGH!

that’s beauty. that’s powerful.



Dear Mark

I see the constant sunshine has not affected your brain, at all. If anything, it has made you even more eloquent.  Thank you for your thoughts I find myself agreeing  90% with the initial exception that I do not  think I am  the most interesting painter on the planet because I know of some many interesting paintings.  But I take your point, it is somehow logic to claim this. Would I paint like that if had any doubt in myself not to be the most interesting painter on the planet?

Your conclusion that the best response to their intentional truth is to LAUGH is brilliant. A world class leap of the mind , congratulations.

In my life time the word paradox has changed its meaning.

In my childhood it was an expression of something absurd.

In my youth it was a tool,

now it seems more and more the place where truth can be found.

Me, as the most interesting painter on the planet and you as the most brilliant mind on the planet, we seem to share a certain fate with the most expensive diamond on the planet, which is still not duck up and consequently uncut and therefore not seen. We are getting too old to say that it is bad luck or circumstances. We made conscious decisions to not do certain things. Our conscious told us so. It is this moral implication that is in the double meaning of the world that I find interesting. Perception was such a dominate topic for so many decades, that I now wonder if looking at the moral implications that are always accompanying or decisions have not been neglected. When it came up in the process orientated public art world that we were interested in 30 years ago, it was nothing but political. Exciting in its directness but very naive. I feel ashamed of what I taught in those brief years of employment at art schools

Conscience,  consciousness, awareness, conviction, senses and even beauty, seem to be connected. Isn’t it the artist and the philosophers task to explain how?



hi alf,

sorry for my slow response. been a bit busy here.

trying to make plans to move to Maine…

i’m glad you appreciated my comments about your work, and of course, i’m surprised that you’ve perfectly understood my suggestion that the best response is to laugh.. 🙂

i can’t take credit for that, entirely. i can, in relation to your ghost works. but the general idea is Nietzsche’s. he’s famous for many things. the death of god and all that. but he also spoke of he need to ‘philosophize with a hammer’. but then he equated, in a round about way, the hammer with laughter. because laughter is the hammer that give us joy even in the face of all that is most terrible about the world.

laughter gives us the strength of the hammer in the face of all that has gone wrong, all that is unjust. it allows us to defeat our ‘enemies’ who want to subdue us. laughing in the face of our ‘enemies’ is the only proper response. because its the sign that they are utterly wrong and ridiculous. and that we are right.

and your paintings are right. whether or not they are the most interesting on the planet, they are among the most interesting on the planet.

and you’ve put it exactly right: the meaning of ‘paradox’ has changed in our life time. not only in your life time, or mine. but in general. and yes, while it may have once been a tool, it is now the only form in which ’truth’, might, possibly, reside.


why is that?

it’s because what has been previously thought of as ’truth’ has been proven to be false. and what was once considered to be ‘false’, is sometimes now considered to be ’true’.

this is exactly the ‘cultural predicament’ that Nietzsche understood was at the heart of ‘modernism’, and generally, at the heart of ‘modernity’. so the full statement of the paradox is:

modern ’truth’ is a lie. modernity is based on that lie. and that lie can be described as – ’truth’ exists, when it doesn’t and never has.

so, that view of modernism and modernity MUST make one who understands this, laugh. laugh at the foolhardy nature of humanity. we are utterly ridiculous creatures.

so… if truth is a lie, then, what is the best response?


surely, it’s to laugh at ourselves. to wield laughter as a hammer. to bring the hammer down upon modern ’truth’, and shatter it into a million pieces.

which is what your ghost paintings do, have done.

the have come into existence against your will. yet, it is your will-to-painting that has brought them into existence. that’s your painting paradox.

you thought you could WILL your paintings into existence, but you couldn’t. though you also have done. but it’s only when you discovered/invented a ‘process’ to make you ghosts, that your will escaped you, and instead, you ‘found’ another ‘process’ of making that brought your willless ghosts into existence.

but that was, and wasn’t ‘accidental’. thus their paradoxical ’truth’. you ‘found’ them through a willful recognition of their value. and once you found them, then you ‘intentionally’ ‘made’ them.

and yes, we are too old to say that we are not the product of our own decisions, ‘good and bad’. but how do we evaluate ‘good’ and ‘bad’?

what is ‘bad’ can become ‘good’; and what is ‘good’ can become ‘bad’.

this is also a Nietzchean way of evaluating the social/cultural constructs of ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

which is why he wrote a book called ‘beyond good and evil’…. but, notice, ‘bad’ is not the same as ‘evil’.


‘evil’ is a social construct invented by Christianity. it’s a christian, religious, construct.

so if one rejects Christianity, then, one must reject the concept of ‘evil’.

and then, the ‘bad’, can be ‘redeemed’ as potentially good. perhaps not as ‘bad’ in the moment that it was ‘bad’. but latter, after the ‘bad’ has been transformed into the ‘good’ through other social/cultural forces and time.

the point being, that the ‘bad’ is not ‘evil’. because in christian terms, what is ‘evil’ is forever bad. but the ‘bad’, is not necessarily forever ‘evil’.

so it’s very possible that your ‘bad’ paintings, never having been ‘evil’, might become ‘good’.

who’s to say? who has enough ’truth’ on their side to make that judgment? that judgment of ‘value’.

certainly not the art market…

certainly not some art historian or art critic or gallerist or museum.

to ‘value’ your work ‘good’ is only possible through invention.

i, mark bartlett, think that your work is very, very good. i have made that case many times. why is my opinion not sufficient? it’s based on a deep knowledge of art and painting and history.

but i don’t have the credibility of a famous art historian or critic. but that doesn’t mean that i’m wrong.

its only that i don’t have the social status and market branding that is recognized by Tate or the now criminal, mary boone…

but… eventually, i might.

so… we must invent and stand by our invention of ’truth’.

your ghost paintings are truth in the form of paradox.



Vinca and i have been communicating about her upcoming show. she wrote to me asking for my advice. she is her own person. she will do whatever she does. and that’s what makes her so amazing.

you’re right, she has no clue about the ‘importance’ of Saatchi… which is why whatever she does will be important.

one could spend hours trying to explain to her how ‘important’ Saatchi is. but she would NEVER understand. she’s not wired in a way that would allow her to understand. and the degree to which she does understand, doesn’t matter. it won’t change her approach to the exhibition. though, when i suggested that she must be ’true’ to the extent that she ‘bite the hand that feeds’, she agreed…

she’s the ‘real’ thing. someone who has somehow accidently found herself in the ‘art world’, and doesn’t give a shit about it.

her only focus is to create something in that context to which she is ’true’.

which reminds me of another controversial and paradoxical Nietzsche aphorism: truth is a woman…


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Paradox and the Ghost Paintings of Alf Lohr

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