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Gabriel Schmitz is a painter. His working materials are traditional, even archaic: charcoal for his drawings, oil paint for his work on canvas. Yet the fact that these tools have been around for a long time does not invalidate them for the task he is facing. He paints and draws dancers. Dance, as he sees it, holds a deep truth about human experience, about our emotions and motivations. Schmitz is looking in his work for a trace that may hold a reflection of this truth, not reveal it, nor answer the questions posed by it, but show it in a similarly elusive way. He strives for an equivalent of a body in motion on a two-dimensional surface. Dance and painting have a lot in common: the blank space of a canvas is similar to a stage where movement will take place, only that in painting this movement leaves a permanent trace. Composition, balance and rhythm are terms applicable to both art forms.Yet where dance depends on time to exist painting denies it. But does it really? May it not be that time is yet another ingredient alongside oil and pigment to be applied and fixed on the surface? Time gets accumulated on the canvas over the days, caught in between the layers of organic matter. Condensed vertical time that can be sensed when you look at a painting. Schmitz’ work is figurative, yet not in a descriptive way. He does not strive to reproduce a given reality by imitating it. If anything worthwhile can be achieved in painting the work has to be a presence in its own right, not merely an image of a reality outside of it.
Of all the art forms dance is certainly the most purely physical, as much as painting is the most visual. And yet what Schmitz is interested in is what this physical act communicates, in what he receives when he watches a dancer move, which strangely enough is the total opposite: it’s the most intangible, metaphysical emotion, a state of communion with what takes place in front of him, because it does not really happen in front of but within him. Words are not an adequate tool for revealing this inner process, but painting is. In the same way dance as a purely physical language can express the metaphysical, the purely visual language of painting can express the invisible. The essence of a painting is beyond the pigments and oils, it is suspended somewhere between the piece itself and the viewer. A painting is, and should be, incomplete and in need of a gaze, a complicit gaze that fills the gaps and offers suggestions, none of them definite, always changing, a constant flux of offer and acceptance. Only a seemingly unfinished painting can become alive, oscillating as it defies its own condition of a given definite form with the intuitive help of the viewer. Its dependance on the viewer is its strength, not its weakness, and gives rise to that peculiar subconscious sensation of being trusted by a painting.
Alongside his paintings Schmitz shows drawings that are not in any way less important than the painted work. In his drawings the focus shifts, their immediacy likens them more to dance itself.
The exhibition is on show from September 16, 2023 to October 22, 2023 at Hangar-7.