facing the Face


What in my work was intended as portraits turned over years into The Face. This general concept became a predominant theme.

The whole of the face is not the same as facing the Face. Maybe you truly see the face when you don’t look at it anymore.The face lives in remembrance.The face you saw is the face you see in absence.

The paintings are variations of a lost original. The (im)possible portrait becomes possible through sequences. The sitting other is model seen and becomes model newly created in each and every variation.

Three years after I returned from Abu Dhabi, where I taught, painted and showed the sequence "Dying Lion Nineveh 645 BC*\" (triggered by the stunning original shown by the British Museum), a student of mine in Abu Dhabi, a gifted painter herself, reappeared during Skype conversations. The conversations elicited hundreds of screenshots followed by countless drawings and then 50 or more paintings—"Die Frau ohne Schatten (The Woman without Shadow),The Jordanian Woman".

The painting is mirror and window is face; when I look at it it looks at me. The painting is presence.

Beauty may require the servile imitation of what is indefinable in objects

Paul Valéry in Illuminations Walter Benjamin



The indirect gaze:

Seeing implies distance, the decision that causes separation, the power not to be in contact and avoid the confusion of contact. Seeing means that the separation has nevertheless become an encounter. But what happens when what you see, even from distance, seems to touch you with a grasping contact at a distance? What happens when what is seen imposes itself on your gaze, as though the gaze has been seized, touched, put in contact with the appearance?

Fascination is vision that is no longer the possibility of seeing, but the impossibility of not seeing.
Fascination is tied in a fundamental way to the neutral, impersonal presence, the indeterminate One, the immense and faceless Someone.

Maurice Blanchot
The gaze of Orpheus translation Lydia Davis

Madlener updates the elements and through images, plunges into our own consciousness. He breaks the aesthetic ice that has glazed the swamp of our time. His images are not sharp but partially wiped, erased, with accents on essential details, like souvenir images partially eaten away by time. The climate is romantic, Proustian, full of nostalgia.

His work is meant to be “art that deals with art.” This means the refusal to eliminate the past, the refusal to countenance the disappearance of continuity, the refusal of psychic impoverishment and any exclusive claim for actuality. Madlener tries to save what is dying through intellectual leveling. The artistic combat waged here locates itself in the realm of exact translation of this process.The paint is transparent, the material evanescent; the color creates the climate; the form is suggestion and obsession. The image is a mirror with many facets, with displacements, with illusory effects: unreality. His painting is drawing in a state of metamorphosis, as his drawing is painting in search of an earlier identity. His work is an unreality that plunges into our consciousness, leading us to our own inner reality.

Karel J. Gheirlandt-
Jörg MADLENER, Catalogue Société des Expositions Palais des Beaux Arts de Bruxelles 1983 Translation Patricia Eakins and Jörg Madlener



Day two in making a painting

To paint is to jump into the crucial emptiness of the untouched canvas. What is intended will have to negotiate the growing reality that evolves there.The apparent contradiction between intention and habit and
hand is not a defect, but perfectly expresses the twofold structure of every authentic creative process, intimately suspended between two contradictory urges: thrust and resistance, inspiration and critique.

( Giorgio Gamben. Creation and Anarchy )

When I look at the screenshots of the young woman in Abu Dhabi, when I look then at the paintings - faces that look at me - they both stay lost in translation and enigmatic. To paint is the attempt in progress to find truth .

From my time in high school I still remember the line of the first chorus of Antigone; polla ta deina mae ouk deinoter anthropou, there are many things that are overwhelming but nothing is more overwhelming -
means also frightening -

than mankind.


When day comes we step out of the shade,

aflame and unafraid

The new dawn blooms as we free it

For there is always light,

if only we're brave enough to see it

If only we're brave enough to be it


Amanda Gorman
inauguration of President Jo Biden 20.01.2021


 The river 1


2021 on paper

*Foto Schubert



Born 1939 in Düsseldorf Germany later acquired the Belgian citizenship.
Classical humanist high school education (Greek,Latin), Technical University Darmstadt architecture, Städelschule Frankfurt art (Prof. Heinz Battke), Goethe University Frankfurt sociology and philosophy (auditor Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer), National Higher Institut of fine arts Antwerpen drawing and printmaking (Prof. Jos Hendrickx). Private student of Otto Dix.



Assistent professor Technical University Darmstadt, drawing and color theory, professor School of fine arts Uccle-Brussels drawing, founder and director Dolomite Academy of painting and digital photography Kulturzentrum Grand Hotel Toblach in Italy, painting.
Private teaching painting and drawing Germany, United States and Abu Dhabi.

Biennials of Venice and São Paulo
One man exhibitions in museum- and public institutions in Belgium,Germany, France, Italy, United States, Argentina, Abu Dhabi.
One man exhibitions at art fairs FIAC, ARCO, Art Basel,Expo Chicago, LA Art Show.
One man exhibitions in galleries in Belgium, Germany, Luxemburg, Italy, Spain, Holland, United States.
Museum and public collections Germany, Belgium, United States, Abu Dhabi.
Private collections Belgium, Holland, Belgium Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Austria, France, Lebanon, Abu Dhabi.
Set Designs for theater and opera in Belgium, Holland, Germany, United States.

One man exhibitions in public institutions and museums

  1. 1971  Cultural Center Romi Goldmuntz, Antwerpen Nassauische Kunstverein Wiesbaden

  2. 1972  Musée d'Hond Dhaenens, Deurne

  3. 1973  Palais des Beaux Arts, Charleroi

    Landesmuseum Oldenburg

    Kunsthalle Darmstadt "Breschen zur Wirklichkeit”

  4. 1974  Maison de la Culture, Namur

1974 Moderne Galerie Saarlandmuseum “À la recherche de Robert Musil”,drawings

1978 Kunsthalle Darmstadt :der Tod in Venedig”

  1. 1981  La Bibliothèque du Centre Pompidou (BPI) “À la recherche de

    Rober Musil”, drawings

  2. 1982  Venice Biennial, Belgian Pavillion “La Mort à Venise”

  3. 1983  Palais des Beaux- Arts de Bruxelles “Jörg MADLENER”

  1. 1985  São Paulo Biennial “Ettal Barroco”

  2. 1986  Badische Landesbibliothek “Grenzüberschreitungen,

    Variationen zu Gustav Mahler und Thomas Mann”

    Museo de Arte Moderna Buenos Aires “Ettal Barroco”

  1. 2009  Kunsthalle Darmstadt “Gesichtlos die Malerei des Diffusen”

  2. 2010  Hofgartensaal Residenz Kempten “Kassandra”

  3. 2011  Paris Sorbonne Abu Dhabi “Dying Lion Nineveh 645 BC"

2016 First Things Magazine New York 'The Jordanian Woman”

  1. 2018  AFO Bunker 02 “Sandstorm the first five days the war 2003”

  2. 2019  AFO Bunker “Kassandra”

    Académie Royale de Belgique (Patio des Étables Royales)

    Bruxelles “Elegy for Syria”

  3. 2020  Kunsthaus Museum Heylshof Worms “Elegy for Syria”