Jean-Frédéric Schnyder

Galerie Walcheturm

Jean-Frédéric Schnyder’s recent exhibition “I pittori somo cani” (Painters are dogs) included over one hundred, identically sized paintings in an array of styles, exploring seemingly exhausted genres: landscape, still life, portraiture, and abstraction. Schnyder arranged all his paintings, which he produced between 1983 and 1995, on a single wall in orderly, horizontal bands, creating a patchwork of miscellaneous styles and themes. On the gallery floor he placed a work entitled Hudel (Rag, 1983–), a carpet-like expanse formed out of used, meticulously-stitched-together painting rags. An ongoing project, the pieces of stained cloth that it comprises, each about the size of a hand, document the artist’s activity as a painter.

Since the paintings on the wall, despite their assortment of styles and subjects, remained largely unchanged during the twelve years in which they were produced, one comes to appreciate the obsessive consistency that underlies Schnyder’s approach. Many of the pictures belong to an extensive series of images he has produced by following strict, preestablished procedures. He might, for example, for a period of months, travel on a train, each time to a different destination, and paint an image of the waiting room there—then return home to produce another painting with the leftover paint.

Schnyder presents himself as an artist who has abandoned the quest for an original vision, embracing instead a notion of art as quotidian ritual. By following preset procedures, he avoids the profound sense of anxiety that attends the pressure to invent something new. While making his art he is merely a dedicated worker cocooned within the orderly rhythm of his production. The work continually reminds us of what we already know—what is already part of our visual language—while it transforms the ordinary into an expression of the artist’s complex identity.

Anthony Iannacci