Blind Man’s Faith
A World of Wild Doubt
Until April 14, 2013
Der Kunstverein, since 1817.
In his drawings and paintings, Norbert Schwontkowski (b. 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. 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. 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 surfaces, 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 and drawings.
The exhibition A World of Wild Doubt on the ground floor of the Kunstverein Hamburg combines different works from more than 40 international artists in a very special sculptural display. The starting point of the 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. 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. 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 assembles diverse materials such as early anarchist pamphlets, punk records, books, comics, printed graphic works, and ephemera. (Curated by Dorothee Böhm, Petra Lange-Berndt, Michael Liebelt and Dietmar Rübel.)
The Kunstverein is funded by Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg – Ministry of Culture. The exhibition A World of Wild Doubt is funded by Liebelt-Stiftung, Hamburg.