Blind Man's Faith
January 26 - April 14, 2013
In his drawings and paintings, Norbert Schwontkowski (*1949, lives in Bremen and Berlin) does not explore the path to abstract visualization and instead has discernible objects and figures emerge from the foundation to the images he creates. He records the world and the seemingly vacuous side to everyday life in fragmentary excerpts, and on even the smallest of canvases proves to be a great storyteller. The focus is on human weaknesses and rashness, human inadequacies and the paralysis of existence, but often he also addresses the small moments of movements and happiness. Schwontkowski’s works show us how the border line between fantasy and reality, between the past and the present is quite permeable. Space and time play an important role, here, with memories and perceptions melding.
These artworks challenge viewers to activate their own experiences and memories: The artist hopes that his images will set in motion an "inner cinema" before our eyes, and indeed only personal references enable you to interpret the opacity and ambiguity with which Schwontkowski consciously imbues his images: "What we see looks out at us." Many of his images are defined by melancholy and yearning, and yet he forever undermines this with humor, such as arises first and foremost from the interaction of pictorial idea and work title. His approach to painting is in this regard not unlike that of the Surrealists and their faith in joy, something also manifest in his special working method and the fact that he always allows for chance.
Alongside oil, crayon, water and pigment, Schwontkowski often also adds metal oxides to his pictures, something that can lead to unforeseen changes to the color. In a wet-in-wet process, initially many layers of color and paint are superimposed, and thus a kind of horizontal foundation is laid. The use of metal oxides resembles photographic and film processes in terms of the art’s sensitivity to light. Part of the painting process is left to chemistry, which cannot be controlled, and thus to chance. Schwontkowski makes deliberate use of these arbitrary and surprising effects. The images continue to morph, changing their colors with each day anew. The result are at times impasto, at times fluid sur-faces, often shimmering with a vibrancy in a sea of colors associated with the season from November to February, engendering both lightness and gravity at once.
On the first floor, Kunstverein Hamburg is displaying about 30 selected works from between 1999 and 2013, alongside large-format canvases, they also include sketchbooks.