Altered Spaces


David Schnell

David Schnell's work is heavily related to the title of this project: 'Altered Spaces' and the idea of creating an image where the real and the imaginary can coexist. His blend of dream-like colours and realistic lighting creates a space that seems to be in a realm between possibility and impossibility. 

The essay on Schnell by Dieter Daniels does not concern itself with the unique aesthetic qualities of the paintings but rather the context behind them. Schnell's interest in architecture and its apparent lack of fuction in his painted world comes from riding BMX bikes.

In an interview he states: 'Before I started painting, I rode a BMX. That was something that stripped architecture of its structural function. It lost its gravity. At the same time, more and more wooden structures were built. The materials were usually stolen from big building sites. The ramp constructions made from them had the sole aim of serving an essentially absurd activity with no real purpose.' 

The unusual linear constructions in his paintings are reminiscent of scaffolding one might find in BMX ramps, however, in this case, there are no BMX bikes and there are no inhabitants. The audience is left guessing the purpose of these peculiar structure in a made up space. 

Schnell is also interested in how the environment has been changed and shaped by the human race. The essay refers to a film 'Losers and Winners', in which an entire factory in Germany is dismantled and re-assembled in China. It depicts the seemingly impossible task completed and leaves viewers with a grand impression of how much humanity has altered the natural state of earth. Indeed, the changing landscape of Germany is not new for Schnell. The industrialization of Germany during the Cold War and the revitalization experienced by the newly united nation sought great impact on his surroundings. Now more than ever, globalization is continuously altering our spaces and Schnell's paintings reflect this truth.

Ever since Landscapes were painted, they represented their contemporary surroundings. Schnell wrote about this in his diploma thesis 'Landscapes as Social Criticism'. It is no surprise then that he looks to criticize the modern landscape with its gigantic industrial buildings. 

A certain irony in Schnell's paintings is discussed by the essay. The discovery of linear perspective (a technique skillfully used by Schnell) can be seen as a necessary by-product of urbanization. After all it was Filippo Brunelleschi, an architect and engineer, who developed the technique. The essay points out that alteration of the environment had been occurring long before it was ever recorded on painting. Therefore, Schnell uses the techniques that helped urbanization to criticize urbanization itself. 

 Ian Monroe

In his essay: 'Where does one thing end and the next being?', Monroe proposes that collages defy our incessant need to clarify differences, categorise and organise 'things'. This gave me a deeper appreciation for the technique that I previously believed to be quite childish and immature. He refers to the Vietnamese artist, Dinh Q Lê's work as an example of how collaging can be used as a cultural commentary. Lê uses a collaging technique called 'cubomania' to combine images of Iconic images of Vietnam heritage and American pop culture. He reflects the fear of merging identities in the age of globalisation and perhaps the loss of cultural identity itself. His work deeply resonated with me as an international student. It is difficult to grasp a sense of individual identity when people feel the need to place others in distinct categories. This notion of mixed/lost identity is something I want to explore in my future work. 

Monroe continues to discuss the idea of the 'edge', specifically where a certain 'thing' ends and the other begins. In Jake and Dinos Chapman's work 'Zygotic Acceleration Biogenetic, De-sublimated, Libidinal Model' the edge of each individual girl is merged with one another. This therefore constitutes as a collage and reveals the nature of how we view things when it is individual compared to when the 'edge' is merged. Often using the Greek myth of the Chimera as an example, Monroe insists that Chapman's work shows how we may become unsettled when a few, completely benign, things are combined. The Chimera is made up of a lion, a goat and a snake, which can represent bravery, fertility and cunning respectively. Yet, when combine as one creates a terrifying beast, much like the combine bodies of girls by the Chapmans. 

Another example of combining edges can be seen in Linder's collage work. In this case, she does not seek to explore the unsettling nature of combining two seemingly harmless 'things', but rather to criticize our reliance on, and affection towards technology. In a hyperbolic manner, she uses collaging techniques to combine the female figure with irons, blenders, cameras, and so on. It is as if to suggest the line or 'edge' between technology and the human body is becoming increasingly blurred. 

For Monroe the edge does not have to be physical, much like the edge between one girls body and another, the edge between different animal parts in the Chimera and the edge between technology and body. He suggests that there is an intangible edge between reality and imagination that artists are able to exploit as well. One such artist is Thomas Demand, who constructs paper-models of interiors, rooms and different spaces. However, once a photograph of the finished model is taken, the physical version is destroyed. By doing so, Demand restricts our view to a singular point, preventing us from seeing the entirety of the model and enforcing the illusion that the paper construction may be real. Monroe likens this technique to a film set, the viewer is convinced of a world that ends just outside the frame. The edge, between reality and imagination, is found in the inevitable imperfections of the paper models. Reaching neither perfect illusion or grounded truth, his work remains in limbo creating a unique aesthetic and instilling an unusual atmosphere. 

Continuing his exploration of intangible edges, Monroe discusses the disappearance of the 'edge' entirely. This is akin to the act of camouflage and allows for a complete illusion as the viewer is unable to tell the difference between an object and its altered state. He refers to Tim Noble and Sue Webster's Dirty White Trash, 1998, as an example of the camouflaged edge. A pile of trash and garbage is arranged by the artists in a certain manner so that, when light is projected onto the sculpture, the shadow depicts human figures. Here one cannot pinpoint where the trash ends and the illusion begins, the object and its altered state is interlocked, one cannot exist without other in this arrangement. 

John Stezaker's Mask series is alluded to as an example of how the edge can be corroded, meaning the edge that separates two distinct content is degraded. Monroe claims that in Stezaker's specific arrangement of two jarringly different images, a face and a landscape, the individuality of each image is no longer recognized. However, I disagree; if the 'edge' is where one thing ends and another beings, then it is quite apparent to see where the face ends and the landscape begins. In fact, Stezaker seems to emphasize this distinction deliberately. He could have employed techniques such as layering, overlapping, double exposure in order to blur the edge between the two images. I believe this corrosion of the edge is better exemplified in Dinh Q Lê's work, where is intentionally combines two images to make a cultural statement. Thankfully, Monroe refers to a more suitable example, Dallas by Sheena MacRare, 2005.  This video piece takes 18 episodes of 'Dallas' and overlaps them, making each episode intelligible from the other. Here the destruction of individuality, that occurs through the 'corrosion' of the edge, is obviously present. 

Gerhard Richter

'Strip' 2011

The aesthetic of this piece is heavily related to my final work. Richter's well-known work of abstract colour paintings such as 'Abstract painting (726)' is similarly related as it involves a sense of movement, almost smearing like. However, what really interested me is the recent work he has done involving computers. Using computer software he divides his past paintings pulling them into thin strips. This creates the effect of a computer glitch, colours being stretched on screen. It has a similar visual quality as motion blur, except in a purely lateral movement. This is similar to the experiments I trialed in my sketch books and my final outcome.


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