Sunday, May 27, 2007

Norbert Witzgall

Norbert Witzgall


“There are different sources of pictorial motivation in my life. One is my protestant farmer childhood background where I was told to keep away from admiring pictures of a popular nature; I thus developed a secret addiction to pictures so images I had been looking at initiated my “socialization”.

The first source of imagery came in the form of countless photographs from the family albums and the stories attached to them. With the myths that were cast upon them, they seemed to represent, in these half-truths, class and role models that constructed identity – that of the portrayed as well as that of the beholder. These role models loomed in all the other photographic images that caught my attention in childhood: in advertising campaigns, TV-series and the (American) cinema, the pop culture cosmos.

The ghostlike and immaterial clichés of photography are still the main source for the images I try to reproduce. These pictures always show bodies and moments that passed a long time ago. The desire to reach the unreachable, the past, becomes greater in proportion to the impossibility of doing so. To lose myself in a time and place that doesn’t exist anymore, or never existed the way it is depicted, attracts me.

By working with these beautiful shadows I try to get rid of them.
I could describe my process as a form of exorcism.
The precise moment of wiping out these images is the reason why I paint.
Covering and hiding, canceling the primary image is also a way to address my constant doubt in relation to painting, its validity as a contemporary artistic medium. The first stage entails painting the „ideal“ picture: here I try to stick to a stiff academism. The use of stale bourgeois techniques, such as oil glazes or soft pastels, really interests me- in their obsoleteness they implicate a slight irony and maybe a certain feeling of vengeance. (Norbert Witzgall)


With pressed flowers, ribbons, broken tiles, dust, incisions on the canvas or board, Norbert Witzgall brings a new inflection to “realist painting”- he reincarnates nineteenth century academic painting, Hollywood head-shots, photographs of lovers, family members, artist friends in his paintings with a dandyish flair and an attitude that is at once iconolatric and iconoclastic. The whimsical addition of elements on the surface of the works -and conversely the subtraction when it comes to slashes or faceless bodies- never compromises the intensity of his representations but it nods half-mischievously half-seriously to a tradition that looms large, dies and is reborn every few seasons.

There is a kinship to early 20th century attitudes of satire and insolence that could be situated at the cusp of Dada and Surrealism (Jean Arp’s reliefs and works on paper, Max Ernst’s frottages and collages, Francis Picabia’s “Transparences”) but also to Joseph Cornell’s’ nostalgic, Victorian bric-a-brac assemblages as Witzgall often incorporates objects found in thrift stores in his art works.

For his first solo exhibition with Nice & Fit we are presenting a new body of work that includes paintings on canvas and board, works on paper and assemblages. The title of the exhibition sets sonic associations: from his deep interest in photography (by referencing British photographer Julia Margaret Cameron) to the nostalgic carelessness of John Hughes’ 1986 teenage movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (via a character named “Cameron”) and the bi-gender nature of the name. Finally, like the titles of his works that often refer directly to the individuals portrayed, (“Lauren”, “Nadja”, “Jan”, “Elvis”) the choice of one name suggests that the entire show is approached as a single portrait, perhaps of the artist himself.

No comments: