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      A state of balance – Bernd Pfarr

      Copyright: Gabriele Roth-PfarrBernd Pfarr delighted his audience in satirical magazines and daily and weekly newspapers with his eccentric humour and peculiar scenarios. In 2004, at only 45 years of age, he died of cancer, leaving a gap in the German-language cartoon landscape that cannot be filled.

      In 1998, Bernd Pfarr received the Max-und-Moritz prize at the Comic Salon in Erlangen as ‘best German comic artist’. Pfarr completed a classical art course at the Offenbacher Hochschule für Gestaltung, which had an influence on the character of his later work. He made his matt, light-flooded cartoons in a large format with acrylics, and their style is more reminiscent of the paintings of Edward Hopper than of the drawings of his colleagues. The numerous contrasts between light and dark and the bright accents of colour lend Pfarr’s pictures a moment of eternity, fixing them in the moment. However, unlike Hopper, Pfarr doesn’t make use of a realistic style for his landscapes, buildings and characters, but has them originate in a comic world.

      His favourite protagonists are God, Bruno the bear, Purzel the Kantian dog, Fido, Alex the raven and Sondermann, the odd office worker. In Bernd Pfarr’s cartoon worlds they all act out their lovable quirks and wrestle with the peculiar and surreal adventures of everyday life. His humour is not a loud joke, already indicated in the picture, which then suddenly descends upon the viewer. Words and images are separated from each other, in terms of content and space, so the comedy only become clear when you read the block of text under the illustration. Pfarr doesn’t make fun of his loopy, careworn creations, but portrays their rebelliousness in a dignified manner, because he never wanted to be seen as a satirist, as he detested anything know-all and schoolmasterly. Pfarr avoided the meaningful daily political comment, preferring to devote himself to smaller events whose absurdity reveals something about the world in which we live. This approach and his highly literary picture captions, flavoured with old-fashioned phrases, earned him the title of ‘poet of the absurd’. In line with his artistic style, Pfarr never told a joke to its bitter end, but created a state of balance, in which the imagination of the reader was also included.

      Matthias Schneider
      is a cultural researcher and freelance cultural journalist.
      He also designs film programmes and exhibitions on the theme of comics.

      Copyright: Goethe-Institut Stockholm
      Mail Symbolinfo@stockholm.goethe.org
      March 2005