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Robert Seidel Main Profile Image

Robert Seidel

Leipzig, Germany

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Painting • Born in Grimma, Germany • Studied at Leipzig, Germany
 7

Image Conversions

When André Cassagnes died in mid-January 2013 in a Paris suburb aged 86, the world remembered the most famous invention of the electrical engineer, inventor and kite builder from France: L’écran magique, the mystic writing pad, a small red frame with two turning knobs and a shimmering, silvery screen on which geometrical lines would miraculously appear when you turned the knobs. In 1959 Cassagnes presented his invention at the Nuremberg toy...

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When André Cassagnes died in mid-January 2013 in a Paris suburb aged 86, the world remembered the most famous invention of the electrical engineer, inventor and kite builder from France: L’écran magique, the mystic writing pad, a small red frame with two turning knobs and a shimmering, silvery screen on which geometrical lines would miraculously appear when you turned the knobs. In 1959 Cassagnes presented his invention at the Nuremberg toy fair, and shortly thereafter the American company Ohio Art licensed the device for 25,000 US-Dollars. Under the name “Etch A Sketch”, it went on to become one of the bestselling toys in the United States, with total sales surpassing the 100 million mark in the following decades. In 2003 the “Etch A Sketch” was featured on the Toy Industry Association of America’s list of the 100 best toys of the 20th century. Meanwhile, in Eastern Europe, children played with the sought-after “magická tabulka” or “magic pad”, which was produced by a Czech company and had to be shaken strongly in order to make the drawing go away and to start a new magic sketch.

In Robert Seidel’s painting “Magische Tafel” (2009), the massive red shape that provides the framework for an architectural/technical study of Wurzener Strasse and the Rappenberg, located in Robert Seidel’s birth town Grimma, remains identifiable as an Etch A Sketch despite its increase in scale. In the context of painting, this toy can be seen as a multiply-coded device. It references a childhood in Eastern Germany, Seidel’s translation of engineering perspectives and approaches into painting, and certainly also the toils of painting as such: an applied framework, the production of images and its limitations; experiments, determinations, rejections, new beginnings. Robert Seidel does not want to reinvent painting. He still considers classic motifs – landscapes, figurations, architecture – as starting points, and extends them through a number of contemporary aspects: in his work the artist, born in 1983, mixes vintage fantasies with vector aesthetics, the deconstruction of Saxony with bird’s eye views, and nerdy vinyl-loving reggae connoisseur-dom with old-masterly egg tempera on canvas techniques.

“Magische Tafel” is part of a series 3 of paintings, for which Seidel – still during his studies at the Leipzig Academy of Visual Arts – took on the role of a local historian in order to examine his hometown Grimma, Saxony (with a population of approx 30,000), and the surrounding Muldental region through painting: “I see myself as a chronicler whose purpose is to document the present for future generations; and also as a critical observer, who assesses what he sees for its image qualities, and, if necessary, alters the status quo.“. This attitude is based on a desire to focus on what is nearby. Seidel wanted to “opt for a manageable arsenal of image possibilities and to find a clearly defined range of subjects.“ The echo of Saxon landscapes has been resonating through recent art history for quite some time. Beginning with Romantic painters such as Ludwig Richter from Dresden (1803-1884), whose main subject was the Sächsische Schweiz; or the Saxon Impressionist Robert Sterl (1867-1932), who portrayed workers in the (now extinct) quarries; up to the works of contemporary elder statesmen like Neo Rauch – Seidel’s teacher at the Leipziger Academy – or Georg Baselitz. But nowhere in contemporary painting do we find such a cross section of the region, such applied scrutiny in terms of local history and typology, such a dissection that comes close to the works of Seidel.

The artist is keen to remark that his paintings are not primarily concerned with depicting houses, villages or small towns, but with making things and contexts comprehensible to the spectator and himself. “Once I have reached the feeling of saturation I can step back and make changes; I can accept the independent existence of the image and let myself be surprised by the results of painting.“

Unusual approaches to composition or subtle details in the paintings are the source of a current of narratives and references that pull the observer deeper into the image: in “Wurzen” (2008) for instance, the red, three-pronged logo of Wurzener Nahrungsmittel GmbH appears together with various two- and three-dimensional studies of residential, commercial and administration buildings. Prior to the reunification of Germany, the company had been known nationwide as VEB Nahrungsmittelkombinat “Albert Kuntz” and had supplied the GDR, among other things, with peanut snacks and boil-in-bag rice. Also included in the picture is the black, red and gold municipal coat of arms; showing a rider in armour holding a crozier in his right hand, the staff of office carried by bishops. The more recent, inglorious history of the city is referenced by a blurry portrait of Rudolf Heß, the deputy of Adolf Hitler, in the style of a stencil graffiti or sticker. In the Nuremberg Trials Heß was convicted to a life sentence. He committed suicide in 1987 and has since been revered by right-wing extremists as a cult figure and martyr. Since the 1990s an active extreme right-wing scene has developed in Wurzen (and also in the entire area surrounding Leipzig). The scene has created established structures and is present in many areas of social life. “I do not see my work as an explicit political statement,” says Seidel “but the right-wing scene was and is a part of Wurzen; no more, no less.“ Less easy to decipher is the graffiti acronym ACAB (“All cops are bastards”), which has its origins in the British ultras movement of the 1970s, and today is used by both right- and left-wing youth cultures.

The principles of reduction, simplification, selection, intensification and alteration are strategies in any approach to painting, but they play a particularly significant role in the work of Seidel. His figurative subjects illustrate just how essential the art of leaving-out and selecting is for Seidel’s practice. For the painting “Dirty Reggae” (2011) the artist has used a found promotional photograph of the Spanish reggae and rocksteady band Los Granadians (del Espacio Exterior). Seidel used the photograph as his model, and committed it to a process of clarification and alteration – for instance, two of the six band members posing in the original picture are omitted from the painting – to such an extent that eventually all that remains is the “cool pose” of a group of musicians in a small room. A similar principle was used by the artist for the production of “Top of the ladder” (2013), which was based on an album of the same name by the Jamaican ska and calypso band Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, released in the second latter half of the 1960s. Seidel shrunk the big band ensemble from originally 15 musicians down to the classic band size of four members, eliminated the audience and drained the hotel pool. “Dirty Reggae” and “Top of the ladder” are structurally akin to “reverse engineering”: a plan is extracted from a finished object through close analysis – and suddenly the underlying structure becomes visible. Usually, the image transfer between art and pop works in the opposite direction.

The indiscriminate translation – and further processing – of obscure Reggae record covers into the artist’s own practice can be explained with Diedrich Diederichsen’s notion of “being serious about one’s own fandom”. “If you have to make a choice between successful communication, meaning between what is called intelligibility and the loyalty to the subject, or the loyalty to your own enthusiasm, I am in favour of the latter. […] Someone, who enters a state of ecstatic reception is much more interesting to observe than someone who conveys information.“. When Robert Seidel talks about his own work, he speaks about erasing flaws, taking stock and focusing visual power: “I work as long as it takes until there is a sense of calm, and an order has been established.“ But this is just one aspect of his art, which is sometimes actually made on a drawing board. Behind the pictures – which do not appear as uncluttered as the artist is prone to claim – an indulgence in landscapes, music, the architecture of things and shifting perspectives is clearly evident. Seidel is an ecstatic painter, who starts with dissecting and demolishing his subjects, in order to put them together anew afterwards. The courage to question everything provides the basis for his novel, fascinating pictures.
– Kito Nedo

Game Over, 2015, egg tempera on canvas, 300 x 210 cm

Game Over, 2015, egg tempera on canvas, 300 x 210 cm

Hrasdan, egg tempera on canvas, 2016, 100 x 150 cm

Hrasdan, egg tempera on canvas, 2016, 100 x 150 cm

Forum Romanum, 2016, Eitempera auf Leinwand, 200 x 300 cm

Forum Romanum, 2016, Eitempera auf Leinwand, 200 x 300 cm

Alawerdi 2016, Eitempera auf Leinwand, 160 x 220 cm

Alawerdi 2016, Eitempera auf Leinwand, 160 x 220 cm

Am Bospurus, 2016, Eitempera auf Leinwand, 170 x 240 cm

Am Bospurus, 2016, Eitempera auf Leinwand, 170 x 240 cm

Einwurf, 2013 - 2016, Eitempera auf Leinwand, 110 x 150 cm

Einwurf, 2013 - 2016, Eitempera auf Leinwand, 110 x 150 cm

Am Bosporus (bei Nacht), Eitempera auf Leinwand, 170 x 240 cm, 2017

Am Bosporus (bei Nacht), Eitempera auf Leinwand, 170 x 240 cm, 2017

Sweet Sixteen (R, W), Eitempera auf Karton, 20 x 30 cm, 2017

Sweet Sixteen (R, W), Eitempera auf Karton, 20 x 30 cm, 2017

Sweet Sixteen (R, S), Eitempera auf Karton, 20 x 30 cm, 2017

Sweet Sixteen (R, S), Eitempera auf Karton, 20 x 30 cm, 2017

Sweet Sixteen (N, S), Eitempera auf Karton, 20 x 30 cm, 2017

Sweet Sixteen (N, S), Eitempera auf Karton, 20 x 30 cm, 2017

Sweet Sixteen (A,W), Eitempera auf Karton, 20 x 30 cm, 2017

Sweet Sixteen (A,W), Eitempera auf Karton, 20 x 30 cm, 2017

Sweet Sixteen (A,B), Eitempera auf Karton, 20 x 30 cm, 2017

Sweet Sixteen (A,B), Eitempera auf Karton, 20 x 30 cm, 2017

Sweet Sixteen (NA,W), Eitempera auf Karton, 20 x 30 cm, 2017

Sweet Sixteen (NA,W), Eitempera auf Karton, 20 x 30 cm, 2017

What is it about your studio space that inspires you?

Everything is at my command

What sounds, scents and sights do you encounter while in your studio?

Silence, turpentine and white walls

If you weren´t an artist, what would you be doing?

I would watch animals like Konrad Lorenz


EXHIBITIONS

SOLO

2016

Shift, with Franziska Holstein, ASPN, Leipzig, Germany

Akkord, Stephane Simoens, Knokke, Belgium

2015

Schnapsidee, Institut für moderne Kunst, Nürnberg, Germany

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GROUP

2016

SEIN.KÖRPER.ANTLITZ, Soer Rusche Sammlung, Zionskirche Berlin, Germany

Marianne-Defet-Malerei- Stipendium, Kunsthalle Nürnberg, Germany

2015

G2 Kunsthalle, # 1 Leipzig 2015 / Sammlung Hildebrand, Leipzig, Germany

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GALLERIES

ASPN, Leipzig, Germany | http://www.aspngalerie.de

Gerhard Hofland, Amsterdam, Netherland | http://gerhardhofland.com/en/

Stephane Simoens, Knokke, Belgium | http://stephanesimoens.com/

AWARDS

2016, nominated for Künstlerhaus Lukas, Ahrenshoop, Geramny

2015, Marianne-Defet-Malerei-Stipendium, Nürnberg, Germany

2013, Project Scholarship of Kulturstiftung Sachsen

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EDUCATION (detailed)

2003 – 2008 Studies at the Academy of Visual Arts (HGB), Leipzig with Neo Rauch

2009 – 2011 Master student at the Academy of Visual Arts (HGB), Leipzig with Neo Rauch


For more information and inquiries about this artist, please contact Artitious by emailing to artist@artitious.com

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