„The love of a dog is a pure thing. He gives you a trust which is total. You
must not betray it“
Why is it that reading the letter George Rippon included in the exhibition “Ich bin
Hund” makes me so furious? Perhaps I immediately feel addressed myself and
therefore identify too much with the unknown addressee? I feel the writer wants
to apologize for his behaviour towards me, but does not include me, my thoughts
and feelings in his considerations and reflections. He doesn’t show any empathy.
Probably it touches me on the raw, I don’t know. However, this letter throws us
right into the central theme of George’s work. He exposes us for functionalizing
the other as the mirror for ones own self-reflection and the struggle for the
construction of the self. In his work his own experience is often paradigmatic for
the preoccupation with basic human subjects, such as the desire to be loved.
Just recently Michel Houellebecq – famous for his misanthropic perspective on
society – dedicated a whole chapter of his exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo to his
beloved dog Clément, seemingly exposing a sensitive side of himself. Culturalhistorically,
the dog is considered the true friend and loyal companion of human
kind. This connotation, however, lies a mixed blessing since the quality attested to
the animal also express men’s assumption of their superiority - loyalty is too easily
identified with subservience.
Houellebecqs' memorial for his dog is symptomatic of his deep struggle with the
fundamental concept of human relationships as defined by complex negotiation
processes in which all involved parties have to reflect themselves, their behavior
and the ability for empathy towards one another.
In his first solo-show with Markus Lüttgen, George Rippon presents a new body of
work, in which the dog –visually as well as symbolically– is the central motif. He
reflects on the ambiguity of the relationship between animal and master, which
becomes paradigmatic for his pursuit of inter-human relationships and their
fragility, instability and challenging nature.
In his recent series of sketchy pencil drawings and photographic appropriations of
dog portraits, he has scanned and traced the way people stage their dogs, just like
they would do with their relatives or officially as important considered
The photograph he has appropriated for his invitation is one of the many images
the Kennedy family used as an official press images showing Jackie Kennedy as
the warm-hearted dog lover. Just like the traditional painting motif, Jackie is
represented as the woman in the domestic environment wistfully reaching out to
her true friend and companion in the outside world.
The separation of the mistress from her dog is emphasized by the grid-like
structure of the window frame which introduces the second central and recurring
motif in the exhibition, the grid. Since Renaissance times, the window grid is a
proven instrument for the depiction of three-dimensional space, as well for
organizing and mapping that space. In this sense it can also be associated with
systems about closeness and distance in relationships.
The form of the grid is picked up in several works. For the objects in the space,
rebar grid is used like skeletons to create seemingly figurative sculptures. They
have casted inlays of used shoes as feet, detailed reproductions of the invisible
surface of the shoes inner life, the parts which formerly enclosed, protected and
stabilized some feet for days and weeks.
The repetitive set of lines defining a grid reappears in the pattern of the bed in the
back of the exhibition space – a handmade, slightly hippiesque reinterpretation of
the iconic blue check pattern of the Scandinavian luxury brand Hästens, a symbol
for the contemporary successful and financially independent middle class and
symptomatic for a new appeal of conservatism.
For Bed for Harmonie (2016), George invited his friend and fellow artist Hanna-
Maria Hammari to collaborate. Together they crafted a real-size, but dilettante
reproduction of the bed found in his apartment. To invite a friend for a
reinterpretation of the bed you’re sharing with your companion carries a slightly
ironic tone. It is both an intimate analysis of one’s relationship in dialogue with a
close friend, as well as an attempt to equalize romantic relationships and
friendships. Beds define a space for deep intimacy and they function as courts
where fundamental negotiation processes take place. The bed becomes a shared
place, allowing conversation and exchange to occur both in and around.