Adrian Schiess

Galerie Rolf Ricke

Strangely, this exhibition immediately piqued my interest though the works on the walls—in a visual sense—were paltry. Hung at about the same height, there were almost abstract, gestural watercolor-formations painted on torn pieces of paper pasted directly on the wall. They were without content, divorced from the space, requiring neither meditation nor close inspection. The whole show was nailed to nothing, fastened to nothing. And it doesn’t help to say these paintings refuse to represent the concrete or the explicable. In fact, Schiess uses the simplest methods, but they create what one could call an extreme sensitivity that is stated directly and without heavy didacticism. Schiess converts “unpainting,” “undrawing,” “unwall-drawing” “uninstallation” with a stroke of the hand into their opposite through his use of a style, that lies somewhere in between. Schiess claims that he is concerned with painting as a joyful activity, but most of his works are not even initially recognizable as paintings. Painting is the central reference, and in earlier exhibitions Schiess filled rooms with pieces of wood painted in monochrome colors. Formally, these wood pieces parallel the watercolors in that they too had roughly broken ends. But in the watercolors Schiess paints gesturally. Coupled with his statement about the joyful activity of painting, both sets of works have an obsessive, open effect, and both use paintings as a metareference.

The viewer entered the gallery and submitted himself to this effect. “Life’s a gas” or perhaps aroma therapy? There is no image, no figuration, only a spell. Schiess declares that he creates something that is divorced from everyday and hierarchical seeing and from representation; he calls this the moment of disinterested seeing. One opens oneself to the sensitivities of color, to anarchic composition, which still can be influenced by light, color, and space. This space with its goalless works, with its sentimental flair had an attractive economy that shifted the viewer’s perception and created a feeling of incompletetness, a layered transparency. It is like an initiation. Schiess calls it—pathetically—“an anarchic openness with tenderness,” but this scrap of paper that is difficult to differentiate from the wall has the potential for unrestricted emotional chaos. They set their physical presence against a need to speak about them, against models of explication.

Schiess’ style is without an origin, but still “international,” it has an existentialist thrust despite the links he establishes. Conviction is stated and therefore takes place; experience is produced and mobilized. This show heightened the presentation of events that evoke both concrete and illusory meanings. Schiess’ works are fragments of dreams, torn up pieces of obsessive, ecstatic leftovers. The artist plays with our senses as if there were only sight, but in activitating our senses creates a compactness that allows his art to happen.

Jutta Koether

Translated from the German by Charles V Miller.