By NADJA SAYEJ April, 2018
In the ultimate, Instagram dream world, we’re always posing correctly; the serene environment is lit perfectly and thousands of likes are inevitable. However, we don’t always live in this fabricated dream. One artist calling out the online artificial dream world is Swiss artist Andy Denzler, who is opening an exhibition on May 4 called The Painter’s Room at Opera Gallery Paris.
Denzler has created a series of 30 paintings and sculptures of young millennials lost in translation. “It’s all about jpg aesthetics,” said Denzler. “I try to break that with my paintings because I’m showing a distorted world with distorted figures.”
The pieces were made over the past year in the artist’s Adliswil studio (just outside of Zurich), though some were taken while he has traveled through New York and Berlin.
Denzler begins the paintings by inviting young creative types, like actors and models, to his studio for a photo portrait session. “I shoot them in natural moments while they are contemplating their own private world,” said Denzler “I tell them to act in a way that is natural in front of the camera, one that is not too staged,” he said. “I’m not so interested in a posed fashion shoot, I’m more interested in real life.”
Aiming to reveal the banal of the everyday is something that we perhaps wouldn’t otherwise notice. “I always hope it looks like they’re at home,” said Denzler. “I tell my models to act like they’re at home on a Sunday morning alone, contemplating.”
Though this exhibition touches upon a digital lifestyle, it’s also a homage to painting, specifically one namesake piece by Lucien Freud from 1944. Though, this exhibition is an effort to reveal something new about our own inner worlds—or that which goes unseen.“Technology doesn’t always make our lives easier,” says the artist. “I think life now is all about virtual reality and hyper-reality, which is why it’s so important to have something physical to look at, like a painting.”
“Paintings won’t ever go away,” he adds.
Though there have been discussions about the death of painting in recent years, Denzler says his medium of choice will always be around. “I still believe there is something deep inside of something demanding like a painting, looking at an original piece instead of a monitor,” he says. “You are able to do something without any technical help.”
Denzler has always tried to bridge together the tension between polar opposites—whether it’s the individual and society, freedom and order, and for this show, it’s the contrasts between our digital and offline worlds. A few pieces in the show include a triptych called “The Painter’s Room V,” which is an homage to Francis Bacon. “It repeats the same person in three different conditions, which shows the vulnerability of humans,” he said. “It’s a philosophical approach.”
There is also a bronze sculpture in the show called “Black selfie,” which taps into the widespread movement of selfie culture. The sculpture was initially shown in a public space in Geneva last summer. “People were taking selfies with the selfie sculpture, which was entertaining,” said Denzler.
“Every person that passed by stopped to take a picture of themselves with the sculpture in the background,” he said. “I chose to make this piece, and the way she is dressed and has her hair, because it’s all a zeitgeist of what’s happening right now.”
But while a simple act like taking a smartphone pic may seem harmless, the artist finds truth in the silver lining. “Selfie culture is vanity in a society where people like to make themselves public,” he said. “It’s about the transparent citizen.”
Can a selfie be too much? Denzler thinks so. “People give too much of themselves to the public, which they should maybe keep for themselves,” he said. “It’s not just the profile photo, its all the data you give about yourself, and based on your likes, you can be defined as a character. We still haven’t realized what’s going on right now.”
A few of the latest pieces in the show, from 2018, include “Black Painter’s Studio,” a portrait of a woman looking away from the camera and “Torso in Motion,” a portrait of a figure leaning back on a sofa. Similar to that is “The Painter’s Room II,” which appears to be a serene shot of someone sleeping.
“When I paint, I’m not trying to replicate what’s in the photograph, it’s something else,” said Denzler. “I try to paint what I don’t see.”
Andy Denzler’s The Painter’s Room runs from May 4-17, 2018 at Opera Gallery Paris. WM
Nadja Sayej is a Canadian journalist, broadcaster and internationally-acclaimed art critic who is best known as the leader of the new art criticism with her web-TV show, ArtStars*. In her balls-out, snappy Gonzo approach to demystify the inner workings of success in the art world, she has interviewed top-notch art world celebrities like Gilbert & George, John Waters, Peaches, Bruce LaBruce, Robert Crumb, among others, with unmatchable wit and style. Dubbed the “Perez Hilton of Neukölln,” “Borat of the Berlin art scene,” Nadja is represented by 1A Management in Berlin. She reports on visual art and architecture for The New York Times. Follow her on Twitter @ArtStars.view all articles from this author