Peter Granser is a self-taught photographer, who began his career as a photojournalist. The main themes of his photo series, which he publishes as photo books, are the socio-cultural and political constitution of societies, as well as the question of individuality and identity within them. With his works, he inspires his viewers to reflect on contemporary consumer behavior and its effects. In doing so, he examines how humans relate to both their artificial environment and nature. 

The city and the world of nature are the two poles between which the human existence is shown to oscillate on a rational and emotional level.The documentary, narrative photographs of the series “Heaven in Clouds” (2009–12), which provide insights into life in a Chinese metropolis, are juxtaposed with the more contemplative and personal nature shots from the three series “I Walked into a Cave and up to Paradajs”, “20 Million Years and 1/60th of a Second”, and “Schatten/Felder” (Shadows/Fields) from 2013 to 2016.

“Heaven in Clouds” visualizes a moment of political, ecological, and social development, such as that which results from the rapid urbanization orchestrated by the Chinese state. Here, China is representative for a global trend, driven by the global economy. Granser often places the viewers within the work via the chosen perspectives and staging of the photographs, inviting them to reflect on the situation. He portrays an urban landscape, which is marked by skeletons of buildings under construction and disappears in the smog. In addition to the obvious problem of air pollution with its harmful consequences for health and the environment, the large number of residential towers also refers to the question of the social fabric. The speed with which cities are expanded and people from different regions are attracted makes it difficult to develop common basic values and a community based on these. Provisional and muddy access roads, as well as the fissures and cracks in the buildings’ façades, crudely patched with insulating tape, refer to the resulting tensions.

The photographs depicting the city are contrasted with large-format, abstract images of converging lights. They speak associatively of the often-diffuse hope for a fulfilled existence and better living conditions. The lights are emitted by LED advertising signs, and the poetic color gradient is only possible through smog.

Atmospherically, the nature images in the further series shift the focus to a more intimate mood, in which the themes of transience and change take center stage. Several of the works were created in 2016, immediately after the death of Peter Granser’s father, and provide insight into the way he processed this loss. In the works on view, nature becomes the catalyst of inner contemplation. In its often-abstract form, it appears mystical and enigmatic, opening space for free association. This also takes place in the mirror of one’s own experiences. Different geological and vegetal landscapes are explored, from caves, mountains, and volcanoes to the jungle. Here, nature is secluded and untouched by human activity. It is presented in the broad range of its manifestations, some of which have developed over millions of years, as in the case with cave formations. Inherent in the works is their symbolism referring to aspects of temporality and finiteness, as well as the acceptance of these.

The photographs encourage decelerated contemplation, an intention that is reinforced by the “Zwischen/Raum” (Between/Space) installed in the exhibition space: a tea room built into a shipping crate. The “Zwischen/Raum” represents an interpretation of the ITO project space, in which Peter Granser and Beatrice Theil have been experimenting since 2015 with the combination of contemporary art and the preparation of high-quality Japanese teas.

By Anne-Kathrin Segler/Kunstmuseum Stuttgart (translation by Gerard Goodrow)