Adrian Schiess — The Accessibility of the World
Over a period of forty years, Adrian Schiess has produced an extensive, many-facetted and also radical oeuvre, which has been widely exhibited, from the Venice Biennale (1990) and documenta IX in Kassel (1992) to a large number of solo shows in international institutions. His early decision to create painting in the form of Platten, flat panels laid on the floor and painted in enamels, entailed breaking away from the conventions of painting and assuming a new, hitherto inaccessible position — a position in which the ambition for pictures and representation intersects and collides with the meaningless, immediate presence of Farbe in its dual sense of paint and colour. To this extent, the great challenge of his oeuvre, and one which has yet to be sufficiently taken up, lies in its radicalness of impurities and mutual intrusions, where picture and Farbe have lost their previous state of integrated co-existence and impinge on each other’s isolated field in unpredictable and uneasy ways.
In the opening room of Schiess’s recent exhibition in the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen (2020 – 2021) the state of painting is shown to be precarious, beleaguered, catastrophic. What is the traumatic reason behind this Helter Skelter? In the words of the artist: “Here again the senselessness, the evident failure of the undertaking, the impossibility of the picture.” The decisive factor here is the historical loss of the picture — ‘picture’ in the sense of re-presentation (making present again, the presence of an absence, portrayal, translation, interpretation). When the picture is lost, what remains behind are moments of coloured materiality, falling asunder, thrust into one another and heaped up like integuments sloughed off, like useless carapaces or cocoons. One particularly significant type of these carefully orchestrated remnants Schiess appositely names Fetzen — scraps, shreds or tatters.