Opening: Saturday, 18 February, 6 pm
Exhibition: 18 February – 7 April 2012
We are pleased to announce the first exhibition in Switzerland of Norbert Schwontkowski, one of the most important German painters. Born in Bremen 1949 he has regularly exhibited in galleries and public institutions throughout Europe since the late 1970s and in the last years he has obtained a vaster international echo. His work is represented in museums including the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Currently working in Bremen and Berlin, he has produced a body of paintings whose subtly powerful blend of melancholic quietism and gentle irony has evolved independently of shifting fashions in contemporary art.
Schwontkowski’s pictures operate very discreetly on the naivety of children's drawings, on the cleverness of caricatures and the power of a magical image. It is mostly simple figures and objects, man, woman, moon, lamp script, boats that dominate his works. They stand or drift in front of transitory colorful rooms, prepared to dissipate at any moment. A stream of emerging images, some melancholic, some ironic, which in silence bear witness to human existence. The artistic treatment of the matter - a mixture of substances consisting of linseed oil, pulverized pigments, metal oxide, water, binding colors and bone glue, accentuate the scantiness and simplicity of the seized moments.
Schwontkowski personally hand mixes pigments and paints for his works, and incorporates various materials (like copper, gold and marble dust) to create different textures and finishes on his canvases. His palette of pale earth tones, blacks and grays creates a muted, subdued atmosphere, while his carefully worked surfaces and minimal gestures demonstrate his engagement with the history of painting. Populated with small objects and slight human figures, his paintings create a distant world, immersed in a dimension that is still and timeless. His fine and dark color range, the immobile objects, the eccentric and surreal personalities, make one think more of Morandi, to which he marries, by a strange joke of destiny, the black and grotesque humor of Hieronymus Bosch.
Norbert Schwontkowski makes his own way between the paths of modernism and postmodernism. He has no need for programmatic statements; he simply paints as if the taboos of modernism had never existed. Rich in associations, his work references a wide array of painterly traditions, including but going beyond those of Romantic and Japanese art. In each of his exhibitions the viewer can sense what it means to have the whole range of artistic techniques at one's disposal.
Schwontkowski's paintings are surreal and cryptic. They seem to simultaneously want to tell a story and remain mysterious. As the artist revealed to Brooklyn Rail in a recent interview,'most of my paintings come from a dream, which is never fixed. It is more like the feeling when you are traveling on a train without a destination, or in the early morning when you just wake, when you are still in between a dream and the thoughts of what you have to do for the day-like what sort of shirt and pants you will wear and who you’ll see for lunch, and so on. Essentially, it comes from a moment when there is not so much control of your thoughts or what you could actually see. Your eyes are open and you think you can see whatever’s in front of you, but in fact there is something from this corner of your vision, which somehow melts together and becomes something you can’t identify whatsoever. I think this is the way poetry works, by allowing things to come together and bloom and become something else, something fresh and alive'