G. K. Chesterton
Gilbert & George
In his drawings and paintings, Schwontkowski records the world and the seemingly vacuous side to everyday life in fragmentary excerpts. ' A world of wild doubt' assembles diverse materials such as early anarchist pamphlets, punk records, books, comics, printed graphic works, and ephemera.
Norbert Schwontkowski - Blind Man's Faith
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. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue.
A World of Wild Doubt
Artists: Anarchiks, Martin Assig, Thomas Bechinger, Tim Boxell, G. K. Chesterton, Robert Crumb, Kim Deitch, Jeremy Deller, Friedrich Einhoff, Will Elder, James Ensor, Tessa Farmer, Andreas Fischer, Jim Franklin, Gilbert & George, Rodney Graham, Bill Griffith, Rainer Hachfeld, Rand Holmes, Heino Jaeger, Horst Janssen, Mike Kelley, Hubert Kiecol, Jay Kinney, Denis Kitchen, Joachim Koester, Christof Kohlhöfer, David Lloyd, Mark Lombardi, Bobby London, Paul Mavrides, Cildo Meireles, Olaf Metzel, Norman Mingo, Wilhelm Mundt, Bruce Nauman, Tony Oursler, Sigmar Polke, Antonio Prohías, Matthias Recht, Marten Schech, Gregor Schneider, Max Schulze, Andreas Slominski, Rolf Stieger, Suzanne Treister, Félix Vallotton, Lawrence Weiner, Stephen Willats, Louis Zansky.
The starting point of this exhibition is the novel The Man Who Was Thursday by British poet G. K. Chesterton from 1908. This mysterious crime story about a seven-headed anarchist council, which actually consists of spies from the London secret police, addresses a world in a permanent state of emergency. Yet in the end, the real danger emanates from artists and intellectuals. The text weaves an unsettling web out of surveillance and anxieties, takes unexpected metaphysical turns and ends in utter chaos. Nothing less than the question of what constitutes genuine anarchy is negotiated. Are the policemen who defend law and order the real anarchists? Is the law necessarily based on the act of its transgression?
However, "A World of Wild Doubt" is not so much an exhibition about The Man Who Was Thursday as it is a curatorial experiment with the novel. We are not interested in a scholarly interpretation; instead, visitors embark on a journey full of associations, historical and contemporary references, ambiguous moods as well as grotesque situations. For this purpose two artists build and design spaces that deal critically with scenographical architecture. The atmospheres conjured up in the book, ranging from discomfort to paranoia, resonate in many ways with the present.
In a time when the German intelligence service enables assassinations by neo-Nazis, or criminal banksters loot globalised financial markets, political-philosophical ambiguity, as described by Chesterton with its causes and consequences, is as red-hot as the question of whether a system can be reformed from within or has to be detonated by a coming insurrection. Thus, "A World of Wild Doubt" fuses the scepticism of classical modernity towards absolute freedom with contemporary attitudes. Additionally, the show formulates a criticism of the dominance of neoliberal and plutocratic models of society. But The Man Who Was Thursday is also a defence of nonsense. And this denial of logic is taken very seriously, considering that the novel’s subtitle reads: A Nightmare. This pessimistic, anti-modernist tenor is countered by the liberating forces of artistic practices without being escapist. Bourgeois anxieties of revolts and the power of law guarded by (anarchist) policemen are questioned with British humour.
All of these areas are reflected upon and developed further by the participating artists. Some works are made especially for "A World of Wild Doubt"; other positions confirm the worst forebodings or formulate alternatives. Additionally, the so-called Wonderwall .
Visitors will receive a reprint of the German version of the novel; in March 2013 a catalogue will be published by Sternberg Press. The exhibition, together with accompanying talks and events, will provide impetus to develop alternative strategies and to discuss how the current crises can be faced, other than with resignation.
In September 2011 the Kunstverein Hamburg hosted a charity auction for the benefit of the institution. In addition to many works by artists who had exhibited at this venue in the past, a carte blanche for an exhibition was also raffled. This lot was aquired by Michael Liebelt, who, together with Dorothee Böhm, Petra Lange-Berndt and Dietmar Rübel, is curating "A World of Wild Doubt" in the ground floor space of the Kunstverein.
Opening: 26 January 2013
Klosterwall 23, Hamburg
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday and Public Holidays 12 am – 6 pm
Admission: 3,- Euro / Reduced 1,50 Euro
Free entrance for members of the Kunstverein, kids and
young adults under age 18