According to Andy Denzler, painting has the unique ability to simultaneously sustain and destroy the tradition of representation. This breakdown of tradition leads to a confrontation and reinterpretation between painting and contemporary media, and this challenges us to re-educate our ways of seeing. His work seems to hover and shift constantly between abstraction and figuration, and the influence of contemporary media in it is latent, a mutant virus constantly affecting and troubling our relationship with traditional visual representation.
Text and interview: Margherita Dessanay
— What do you draw from?
— Mostly I paint conceptually for a certain project or show. It can be a political or critical social theme, like the American Painting Exhibition in New York 2005 or the Insomnia Exhibition in Lisbon 2007. I start with a topic and do some research or use my own photography and found images from the newspaper or the Internet.
— When did you realize your first painting with the ‘disturbed screen’ effect?
— When I was twenty, as a photographer and graphic designer, I had the opportunity
to work with all different kinds of audio-visual equipment like video and photo material. I was interested in experimenting with different techniques. For more than a decade l painted non-figuratively, and my abstract work had a reference to nature. Photographic or filmic colour fields began to appear. They had a vague connotation of something hidden – one could sense something lying below the surface – like a long exposure time. These elements started to become stronger in 2000 and I tried to develop a method to make it possible to transport my abstract vocabulary in to figurative motif, like black and white sepia portraits painted from my own photography and film
— What is the relationship between your canvases and the screen?
— The hegemony and the aesthetic of the jpeg which we now almost exclusively read as source is problematic. We are viewing a compromised image that is reduced to a handheld format and backlit by a light source emitting from a terminal. An aesthetic that translates poorly from screen to painting and vice versa.
— Did the style of particular film-directors influence you?
— Andy Warhol’s screen tests have had an influence as well as Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Short Cuts by Robert Altmann or Songs from the Second Floor by Roy Andersson to name a few examples.
— Do you ever feel like your painting should be moving?
— No. I feel the painting is static – that it is alluding to movement or that the camera or eye is moving or seeing while capturing something moving. But not the canvas, no.
— Does your work contain narratives?
— I am not really after a narrative. As much as I am concerned with movement, I prefer to be suggestive at most, implying only a mood or feeling. Any type of moralizing or story telling is intended to be frozen, inert, non-revealing to the viewer. I am generally after an expressive documentation of situations plausible enough, but aloof and distanced in which the viewer must not be distracted with narrative, so he may engage himself in the expression, material and execution of the work.
— Images are everywhere and capturing an image has never been so easy. So how do you see the role of painting today?
— Painting today is perhaps in a hybridization period, giving the artist a way to slow down mass media’s accelerated production/consumption rate of images past their sell-by date – even before the issue illustrated has saturated the public psyche. By subverting mass media, the painter can refresh a dead image, reanimating it like Lucien Freud paints the flesh, providing it with an extended shelf life.