Gabriel Schmitz

Huile et temps sur toile

The image that I am looking for is one taken out of its context, stripped bare of any notion of before and after: a presence, and not just a consequence of one past leading up to it. It is like time suspended, although in a strange way it dœs not cease to exist : it only changes direction, its flow closes in on itself and becomes a closed circuit, a fragment of time still in movement but without a clear direction, independent and therefore separable from the flow of time without contradicting its essence.

The two-dimensional canvas is for me an adequate vessel to hold the evasive substance of time. Strangely so, as no means of expression seems as far detached from relying upon time as the means of painting, which is apparently reducible to a purely spatial concept. Maybe to do justice to the complexity of the creation process it should be called “ Huile et temps sur toile ”. And this term dœs not only refer to the time I spend in the studio.

It is like finding a specific page in a book one dœs not know, a page on which nothing has been written. Yet it is this page which contains whole of the book. The emptiness of the page equals the silence of a story not yet told but which exists. Its silence claims to be particular, to be specific and not just any absence of words. And this silence becomes a mould to all the potential stories which are aroused within the viewer, its claim to uniqueness slowly gravitating towards this person’s particular perception of it.

I do not understand my work, nor do I think it works on the level of understanding. I have learned a few things about my motivation, yet I do not know anything about those faces and people who start off from somewhere and end nowhere in particular. They are people whose story I’d like to know but since the initial source is slowly obliterated during the work on a painting, no one can make a claim on their definite reason for being. Least of all myself.

Sketching something is much more than describing it. In any description there are two things : the object and its approximation in words (or paint). But a painting, if it succeeds, becomes so independent from its initial reference point (the “ portrayed“ ) that in order to be true to its condition it has to break the links with reality represented. A painting should proclaim its own truth about the act of seeing and the seen.

Gabriel Schmitz, october 2005

Maybe I am mistaken.
But I think there is no being mistaken in understanding painting, just affinities and incompatibilities.
There is the painting, the sensation (in its essential meaning) it provokes and the possible attempt to corne to an understanding of this sensation, be it consciously or subconsciously.
Those are three fragments of what 1 consider painting.
When working I am looking for these rare moments when reality shows itself in its fragile reflection which has passed through me as an image. I try to get as close as possible to this reflection by the only means 1 dispose of : painting.
Painting is like saying things with my own voice, things which often have been said but without anybody giving them the attention 1 feel they deserve.
If the attempt to save images from falling into oblivion which seems to be their ultimate destination in a time of images continually being replaced by others before their real meaning is allowed to reveal itself.
If the attempt to clad them in their own silence and their own shadow.
Movement rarely celebrates life. In its essence ifs often opposed to time, defying it, turning its back on it, in spite of ultilmately being swept away by it.
Portrays of what I don’t know how to take part in.
Source of sadness and at once of hope.
A back. The presence of a body.
It would not need more than a slight change of position or that the person to whom this back belongs turned around. Personality on the verge of defining itseff, hesitantly, a foot suspended in midair, insinuating the being not yed revealed.
Only a constructive gaze is capable of trascending the visible and getting to the reality behind the represented one.
Painting is of utmost importance for me, but still more important is what I can’t say with it, this precise absence which I try to get as close as possible to. For to present it in its absence is the only way to describe the undescribable.

Gabriel SCHMITZ, mars - avril 1999

Gabriel Schmitz was trained as an artist in various places : his native Germany, Edinburgh (Scotland), Salamanca and Winchester (England); an artistic itinerary which has led to a suggestive work, in line with the German expressionism, with a metaphysical touch to it.
For Gabriel Schmitz painting is a way of introspection which allows him to come to know himself and to communicate. His work reveals a humanistic preoccupation, being centred on the human figure, mainly female, to portray states of introspection in a subtle and lyrical language. His interest lies in registering life as in the language of the body (the expression of faces, of hands seemingly deformed and exaggerated placed in first plane, withdrawn gazes, feet in movement … ) in detaining that fugitive and eloquent gesture which expresses a state of being as well as a preoccupation.
Following closely other forms of artistic expression like cinema, theatre, dance, music or photography, on which he draws for inspiration, he recollects in his work impressions and fragments of lived moments, registers ” expériences of displacement ”. But what particularly fascinates him is the gestural grammar of dance and the portrayal of both the beauty and the fugitivity of harmonic poses in numerous variations.
To capture the naturalness of movement is one of his dominant themes, be it in dance, in people who walk or run or in the cadence of repose. He paints a gesture as a silent pause, a suspended accord which paradoxically seems to continue. His work breathes a certain sadness, even in the frenetic exasperation in which his dancers are immersed. In the painter’s opinion there is a more profound and complex truth to be found in sadness than in happiness.
His work attracts and seduces on first sight, empresses the viewer because each of us is involved in the hidden theme of all his work : the time that will come into being. His paintings are paintings of time, of movement and of silence. Any real art pursues the harmony of opposites, the exact spot of the encounter of - after Baudelaire - the ephemeral and the eternal, the point of inflection that joins things opposed, and Gabriel Schmitz paints with the impulse ta attempt to immobilise movement, to fix fugitive instants, to detain time.
” Paintings is the hope to defy the principle of loss ”, he says explicitly. More than thirty drawn diaries are testimonies of this impulse of the artist to counterpoise death with passionate work.
The dramatic tones merge well with that vision, an austere palette of cold tones with some touches of colour, intense and reverberating : blues and grays, some bright red, sporadic greens and above all black, intense and elegant. By means of contrasting black and white or black and blue (which gives it vibrancy), blurred figures and fragments of the body surge from undefined backgrounds, not unlike water (with occasional lines of paint running), seen from angles more common to cinematographic of photo- graphic composition, create an emotive reality.
Part of this reality form as well the originality of this formats and the subtil incorporation in a few cases of collage in the work.
Gabriel Schmitz studies the human figure in its multiple expressions, especially the African. He paints solitary and sensual beings, who transmit strength and tension as well as a certain anxiety which likewise attracts, beings whom he evokes, even though there usually is a concrete starting point, from their record and from imagination, portraying them as they are revealed by memory.
In this sense his paintings are traces of experiences.


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