Andreas Chwatal – Entgrenzung nach Frankreich
Challenging Hegel`s notion of the inertia of beauty, its passivity and impotence, Andreas Chwatal questions the postmodernist assumption of the perceived transgressive power of the ugly and obscene as a means to conquer the “real”. The artist paradoxically opts for a truly “post-philosophical” practice, highlighting beauty as the power that enables to deal with reality and using aestheticism to look at problems, rather than look away and pretend they aren`t there. Born in 1982, the artist`s work emerges from a post-postmodernist environment. Understanding the necessity and value of both beauty and ugliness for creation, Andreas Chwatal relies on beauty to break through the ugly, if only for the fact that he “likes beauty better”.
By inverting the opposition – painting beauty when nobody wants to see it – the artist playfully nods to the bias of human perception. This is reflected in the contrast between black and white in his drawings as well as, in a more abstract way, his sculptures.
This year`s paintings of Andreas Chwatal are generally more black than white (with the sculptures displaying a darker, fickle colored shade in-between), prominently featuring basic binary oppositions on different levels (such as the dualisms of black and white or text and artistic works themselves). Considering postmodernism`s obsession with the hierarchical structure of all binary oppositions (with white being perceived as “superior” to black, light preferred to darkness and so on) and its struggle to overcome them, the new darkness can be interpreted in terms of the cultural “other” entering the paintings – a form of embracing the other which ironically reproduces the “new German Willkommenskultur”.
The theme of “Entgrenzung” is also reflected in the presentation, where each sheet is put into a certain context and connects with the paintings located in its immediacy as well as with those farther away. In this way, the tense gaze of the mythological Viking Ragnar Lothbrok is directed not only to the text on its left or the city lying behind it, but also to the darkly idyllic view of the valley, which is the starting point of the whole installation.
The paintings are arranged in the way the images of a dream or the unconscious are; a loose array of images floating over the wall, allowing for an open story.
This arrangement, evoking the schizophrenic nature of the internet, places pictures of `barbaric` violence side by side with a contingent cluster of trivial news, sex, and melodrama. Following this logic of randomness, a football championship or the choice of an actress`s dress are competing for the same amount of attention – and ultimately value – as the atrocities of both terror and the war on terror or the resulting implications for society as a whole.
While the artist is able to determine the arrangement of the individual sheets within the range of his exhibition, he deliberately loses this dominion when the composition dissolves as individual collectors choose a group of paintings, sculptures and / or texts, thereby creating their own story.
On the surface, the aestheticism of the paintings creates a decorative impression which is further intensified by random sprinkles of ornamentation as found in Andreas Chwatal`s “Chinoiseries”. In the 18th century Chinoiseries carried a mere decorative function displaying the acquisition of the other during colonialism. In this sense, Andreas Chwatal`s works are constantly constructing and deconstructing stereotypes that have managed to worm themselves into our collective memory, empowered rather than devitalized by time. Just as the child-like painting of the white horse (which is also a red cape to art) or the occasional medievalism, the Chinoiseries express a vague desire for je ne sais quoi, the unreachable or, as the artist puts it, that which cannot be touched.
However, on the pictorial surface, the aestheticism moves the artist`s paintings within spitting distance of design; an effect boosted by the artist`s attention to details, where the footwear of refugees receives equal attention as the concentration of light in the crowded Hall of Mirrors in Versailles.
Part of the appeal of Andreas Chwatal`s paintings seems to derive from the subtle critique elegantly embedded in the beauty of the details that opens itself only to the careful observer. Causing him to pause, it is exactly the decorative element which decelerates the gaze and, opposing time, invites the viewer to saunter. Confronting him with decidedly naive and only maybe-ironic visions of utopia, Andreas Chwatal`s work celebrates the more tender emotions and longings of the human being while at the same time offering a lot more than that.