Pieter Schoolwerth

Capitain Petzel, Berlin, Germany

A lot of hard graft went into the making of Pieter Schoolwerth’s exhibition ‘Model as Painting’. The main hall at Capitain Petzel is crowded with large, jazzily coloured paintings, collages and monochrome wooden reliefs that are mounted on both the walls and room dividers. Playing off the title of Yve-Alain Bois’s essay collection, Painting as Model (1990), Schoolwerth’s multidimensional canvases resist the flat planes and gridded abstractions of Piet Mondrian (one of the figures examined in Bois’s book). Studies of the friction between human beings, Schoolwerth’s paintings mingle digital innovation with craft and manual experimentation. The works reflect a comical, jousting process of circuitous production in multiple media.

b-pschoolwerth-17-0009.jpg

Pieter Schoolwerth, Green Model of a Couple Arguing about their Abysmal, Financial Situation, 2016, oil, acrylic, and giclée print on canvas,2.3 x 3 m. Courtesy: Capitain Petzel, Berlin

Pieter Schoolwerth, Green Model of a Couple Arguing about their Abysmal, Financial Situation, 2016, oil, acrylic, and giclée print on canvas,2.3 x 3 m. Courtesy: Capitain Petzel, Berlin

To make his works, Schoolwerth begins with a photography session, in which shadows cast by friends are used as bases for drawing and collages –as evidenced here by the mixed-media collage A Couple Arguing #00 (2016). This work provides the foundation for relief sculptures, also on view, which are manually cut out of foamcore, such as Model for ‘Green Model of a Couple Arguing about Their Abysmal Financial Situation’ (2016). The foamcore chunks are then taped together, screwed into a wall and photographed. After this image is uploaded, digitally altered and printed onto canvas, Schoolwerth applies thick, gestural curves of paint: such as the orange Nike logo ticked over the flat teal of a trainer in Fuck Me #4 (2016).

b-pschoolwerth-17-0005.jpg

Pieter Schoolwerth, Mailbox, 2016, oil, acrylic, and giclée print on canvas, 1.8 x 2.2 m. Courtesy: Capitain Petzel, Berlin

Pieter Schoolwerth, Mailbox, 2016, oil, acrylic, and giclée print on canvas, 1.8 x 2.2 m. Courtesy: Capitain Petzel, Berlin

Representations of human disagreement and dispute run throughout the show. The theme of personal skirmishing finds an echo in Schoolwerth’s forms in tension: a collision of painting and sculpture, and digital and analogue processes, in a great multimedia face-off. In Blue Model of a Couple Arguing about Football in Berlin (2016), the blue logos of two rival German football teams, Hertha BSC and 1. FC Union, are inverted. In other sequences we see one couple arguing about their personal budget, another splitting up (one of the ‘Break Up’ series) and, in the ‘Fuck Me’ sequence, amid a jumble of shapes and lines, we are all given the finger.

b-pschoolwerth-17-0022_5.jpg

Pieter Schoolwerth and Alexandra Lerman, The Casting Agent, 2017. Performance by Patrick Sarmiento and Pieter Schoolwerth, music by Soren Roi, video still. Courtesy: Capitain Petzel, Berlin

Pieter Schoolwerth and Alexandra Lerman, The Casting Agent, 2017. Performance by Patrick Sarmiento and Pieter Schoolwerth, music by Soren Roi, video still. Courtesy: Capitain Petzel, Berlin

Further evidence of Schoolwerth’s industry of forms comes in a short film made with Alexandra Lerman, The Casting Agent (2017). In the video, ghostly digitally animated humanoid figures are suggested by cut-out shapes that emerge from spaces in background furnishings. These figures, mysteriously and amusingly represented as outlined voids, express themselves enigmatically in non-verbal grunts and squeals: another of the show’s references to the challenges of communication. ‘Reverse cubism’ is one phrase Schoolwerth has used in the past to describe his way of representing multiple objects from a single point in time: an analogy for our contemporary habit of doing several things simultaneously in the digital world, and the interpersonal conflicts that can result.

b-pschoolwerth-16-0001.jpg

Pieter Schoolwerth, Fuck Me #1, 2016, oil, acrylic, and giclée print on canvas, 2.3 x 3 m. Courtesy: Capitain Petzel, Berlin

Pieter Schoolwerth, Fuck Me #1, 2016, oil, acrylic, and giclée print on canvas, 2.3 x 3 m. Courtesy: Capitain Petzel, Berlin

For Schoolwerth, there persists something resolutely handmade within our age of facile digital production. This is emphasized in the last stage of the artist’s working process, where a router machine is used to cut digitally rendered shapes out of wood, which are then recombined as relief sculptures. With their sharp edges and overlapping imagery, they suggest the crystal cubism of Juan Gris or his epigone Patrick Caulfield. But Schoolwerth’s recurring imagery of Rubik’s cubes also testifies to the ludic, riddling nature of his work. More than exercises in experimental production, these works are metaphysically teasing. The artist’s visual koans are replete with retinal trickery. Schoolwerth, faced with a faulty vacuum cleaner, once made works inspired by the pun ‘this vacuum sucks’. As I left, and in a similar vein to Schoolwerth’s technological slapstick, I thought: the vacuum may suck, but the show doesn’t.

Main image: Pieter Schoolwerth, Blue Model of a Couple Arguing About Football In Berlin, 2016, oil, acrylic, and giclée print on canvas, 1.5 x 2 m. Courtesy: Capitain Petzel, Berlin

John Quin is a writer based in Brighton, UK, and Berlin, Germany. 

Issue 186

First published in Issue 186

April 2017

Most Read

Ahead of Berlin Gallery Weekend, a guide to what to see across the German capital
Ahead of Art Cologne this week, a guide to the best current shows in the city
A fresh dispute over the estate of Vivian Maier; Chris Ofili is made a CBE
Theaster Gates & The Black Monks of Mississippi’s latest project for IHME Festival, Helsinki
Barkley L. Hendricks has died; the Tate faces a lawsuit from its neighbours

From Egyptian surrealism to Parisian pissoirs: what to read this weekend
On the 2017 Jamaica Biennial and its attempts to confront the role of misogyny in Jamaican popular culture
Jan Bonny and Alex Wissel’s new film project, ‘Rheingold’, sends up the ethical superiority of art making versus...
Jason Rhoades, My Madinah. In pursuit of my ermitage..., 2004, mixed media, dimensions variable. Courtesy: Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles, The Estate of Jason Rhoades and David Zwirner; photograph: Fredrik Nilsen
Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles, USA
Ahead of Art Brussels opening this week, a guide to the best shows around town
Recently awarded a USA Artist Fellowship, Lynn Hershman Leeson speaks about cultural technologies, personal narratives...
Cosey Fanni Tutti talks to Paul Clinton about feminism, freedom and the politics of the personal
David Zwirner, New York
A guide to the best of the current and soon-to-open shows in London
The final part in a series of our editors’ initial impressions from documenta 14 Athens, Amy Sherlock on the fourth and...
A survey of more than 50 respondents from over 30 countries

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

Jan - Feb 2017

frieze magazine

March 2017

frieze magazine

April 2017