During June/July 2000 Richard Dunn was artist in residence at the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, Saxony, Germany. A large studio in the museum was provided as was unfettered access to the museum’s collection. Dunn focused on those elements of the substantial and varied collection that had a particular reference to Chemnitz’s history in modernist art, architecture and textiles. In reflecting on these objects as social documents, there emerged a compelling link between machine manufacture, especially for the textiles industry, innovation and modernism, particularly exemplified in the industrial architecture that flourished before 1933 and the textiles products, exemplified by turn-of-the-century intricately patterned machine-knitted stockings.In the nineteenth century, Chemnitz, the ‘Saxony Manchester’, was a world centre for textiles and the manufacture of machinery for the textiles industry in Europe, including for Manchester in England and Lødz in Poland.Architects such as Erich Mendelsohn, Hans Poelzig, artists like Edvard Munch, Schmidt-Rottluff, Erich Heckel, Ludwig Beckmann and designer Henry van de Velde (who designed a villa for the textile manufacturer Herbert Esche), received the patronage of the industrialists in Chemnitz in an environment supportive of the new.With the destruction of the inner city by war-time bombing and the reconfiguration of the city and its architecture during the nineteen-sixties under socialism in the newly re-named city of Karl-Marx-Stadt, there is a fracture between the past, present and future that is now being bridged as Chemnitz remakes itself in the unified Germany.
The work comprised abstract paintings and the photographic works that were their reference. These photographs combined images of buildings in Chemnitz designed in the 1920’s and the 1960’s. That is, pre-national socialist / modernist architecture at the end of the city’s successful industrial/textile producing and culturally rich history and later, after socialist reconstruction following Chemnitz’s renaming as Karl-Marx-Stadt.