Jean-Frédéric Schnyder

The Swiss art world has had difficulty with Jean-Frédéric Schnyder, and it’s been ten years since his last exhibition of works, the majority of which went unsold. With these “leftovers” Schnyder has created a sort of retrospective. In the middle of the gallery he displayed the equipment he used when he was a “pleinairist.” At that time he was still considered a conceptual artist, and he had to learn how to paint. In reference to minor 19th-century figures, he called the paintings “Berner Veduten.” His canvases are the size of a backpack and depict the Bern cathedral, a children’s playground, a camping ground, an expressway exit. In an effort to paint a “normal” picture, he traversed the “Swiss” Switzerland, in which the urban and suburban, nature and industry are simply a turn-of-the-head apart on a motor scooter. The view from the scooter seems to determine the perspective within the paintings.

His painting techniques—sometimes pointillist, sometimes consisting of broad brushstrokes—are as varied as his subjects. There is no single unifying esthetic. The only commonalities are his scooter and the fact that he will not spend more than one day on each painting. His mode of transportation is perfect for a country the size of a backyard. In addition to the paintings, there was the model of a garden witch and a series of men urinating on some flowers.

Schnyder’s painting does not come from grandiosity; his subjects are as interchangeable as picture postcards in a display rack. From a distance one might consider him a Sunday painter, but in each one of his paintings the mood changes, and it is a change that guarantees a shift in today’s critical discourse.

Claudia Jolles

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.