*Film Screenings. Sundays 8, 15 & 29 September, 11.30am
*Artist Talk. Wednesday 9 October, 7pm
*Finissage & Screening of Albrecht Schnider Was bleibt, a film portrait by Rita Ziegler. Saturday 26 October, 11.30am at Arthouse Piccadilly, Zürich
curated by Beat Wismer
Mai 36 Galerie presents the first exhibition of paintings and drawings by Swiss Albrecht Schnider. It is the first exhibition in the gallery and after the artist’s return to Switzerland, he lived and worked in Berlin since 1998. The gallery has represented Albrecht Schnider since 2018.
The selection of works focuses on new pictures, some of them created with this exhibition in mind. A few carefully chosen early works provide a fascinating insight into the ongoing development as well as the intrinsic constancy of his diverse output over nigh on four decades. The exhibition has been curated by Beat Wismer in close collaboration with the artist.
Albrecht Schnider’s visual art has evolved between the two divergent poles of drawing and painting. Or rather, it has charted a course from free and spontaneous drawing, as a starting point, towards the execution of painted of images with a truly iconic radiance. The drawings and paintings are polar opposites. The drawings are created with the greatest possible freedom and autonomy, whereby all compositional or design intent is secondary and each line is created with the greatest possible immediacy, flowing directly from the hand, in the spirit of écriture automatique. Such an approach to drawing does not involve the abstraction of some external object, but is more a case of finding form through thought-free execution. Drawing thus becomes a daily exercise involving countless sheets of paper, most of which end up being destroyed and only a few retained, while fewer still are translated into paintings and images. The drawing is the most intimate germination of Albrecht Schnider’s visual output. For a long time, he was very reticent about showing his drawings in public. This exhibition presents, for the very first time, a group of drawings from 1985, opening our eyes to the crucial role that drawing – painting’s little sister – has always played, right from the beginning, in Schnider’s visual approach.
In contrast to his drawings, all traces of individual authorship have been rigorously eliminated from his paintings over the past twenty years. From the mid-90s onwards, he began producing large-format pictures that transposed freely sketched drawings into an extremely precise form of painting, like a gesture frozen in time. This was soon followed by the transition from oil painting to the relative anonymity of acrylics. Alongside the shift towards greater anonymity and the elimination of all visible authorship – it being irrelevant whether the image, or the translation of drawing into painting, was executed by the artist himself and by his own hand – there was also an ongoing process of radical reduction. This reductive process reached its zenith around 2005 in the portraits of heads with an empty white facial area and the white paintings in empty frames.
This approach freed up all manner of possibilities in the paintings that followed, in which a constellation of forms executed with astonishing precision conjured a sense of freedom that defied the narrow and stringent adherence to the preliminary drawings. The paintings exude a lightness grounded not only in an immense knowledge of painting, but also in a thoroughly founded knowledge of its history. The paintings by Albrecht Schnider preserve much of the painterly tradition: his visual interest is based on art history and classical modernism, reaching all the way to contemporary art, as well as in the decorative arts and calligraphy. The figures in his works can appear in almost sketch-like condensed form, or indeed in complex fragmentations; they may appear on the raw ground of the canvas or play through the figure-ground issue in sophisticated and authoritative ways. In these works with their distinctive constellations of form and plane and their idiosyncratic colours, Albrecht Schnider took what was, in many respects, an extraordinarily independent stance with regard to contemporary painting – a circumlocution which, from his very first exhibitions as a (then) decidedly figurative painter – was entirely fitting and justified at every step of the way in terms of his overall oeuvre.
In addition to the daily exercise of drawing, his work contains another important aspect: for many years, and to this day, he has sporadically created oil paintings in the studio depicting carefully constructed landscape images. All are painted in the same small landscape format featuring the same or very similar type of stylised Alpine foothill scenes, though the colours and overall atmosphere may change. Not only do these small- format oil paintings pose questions as to abstraction and figuration, ornament and decoration; they also raise questions on another level regarding rational contruction and nostalgic yearning – themes that run throughout Albrecht Schnider’s work, and are worthy of consideration within the context of his oeuvre as a whole.
From 1982 to 1987, Albrecht Schnider (born in 1958 in the Sörenberg / Entlebuch region of Switzerland) studied at the University of Bern and at the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Bern. Since 2005, he has been teaching painting at the Hochschule der Künste in Bern. Between 1982 and 1992 he spent extended periods in Follonica near Grosseto, as well as in Rome and Florence.
From 1992 to 1998, Schnider lived in Brussels, and later in Berlin until 2018. Today, Schnider lives in Hilterfingen am Thunersee. He works there as well as in Zurich and Berlin. Since 1986, his work has been exhibited in Switzerland and beyond. Many of his works are held in private and public Swiss and international collections. (Text: Beat Wismer)
Acrylic varnish on canvas image
150 x 106 x 4 cm (59 x 41 3/4 x 1 5/8 in.) framed 153 x 109 x 5.5 cm (60 1/4 x 42 7/8 x 2 1/8 in.) signed and dated verso
Acrylic on canvas image
75 x 53 x 4 cm (29 1/2 x 20 7/8 x 1 5/8 in.) framed 77 x 55 x 4.5 cm (30 3/8 x 21 5/8 x 1 3/4 in.) signed and dated verso
Acrylic paint on canvas image
49.2 x 34.5 x 3 cm (19 3/8 x 13 5/8 x 1 1/8 in.) framed 51 x 36.2 x 4.5 cm (20 1/8 x 14 1/4 x 1 3/4 in.) signed and dated verso
Acrylic varnish on canvas image
48 x 34 x 3 cm (18 7/8 x 13 3/8 x 1 1/8 in.) framed 49.5 x 35.5 x 4.5 cm (19 1/2 x 14 x 1 3/4 in.) signed and dated verso
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