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Simon Schubert Main Profile Image

Lilith Hawemann

Simon Schubert

Cologne, Germany

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Drawing, Installation • Born in Cologne, Germany • Studied at Düsseldorf, Germany
 2

Outside a closed Door

Simon Schubert’s universe thematizes the ambivalent relationship between existing and illusionist co- incidents in rooms. he studies these phenomena not as a philosopher, writer or director – although an affinity to these genres does exist – but as a visual artist who embodies them in sculpture and paper works.
Even as a student of sculpture, he was interested in content, not only in form. Influenced by the mindset of Surrealism, he...

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Simon Schubert’s universe thematizes the ambivalent relationship between existing and illusionist co- incidents in rooms. he studies these phenomena not as a philosopher, writer or director – although an affinity to these genres does exist – but as a visual artist who embodies them in sculpture and paper works.
Even as a student of sculpture, he was interested in content, not only in form. Influenced by the mindset of Surrealism, he very soon invested his works with the existence of another reality that was inacces- sible to common sense or logic. thus with “thron”, 2000, he created a chair-like, austere sculpture whose surface of beaten copper is wired with electricity. this “electric chair” comprises the bittersweet confrontation with the fears, the chasms and absurdities of human life. The electric impulse is not actually functional, but it still resonates a latent finality. What appeals to the artist is this break with logical expectations and the supposed inherent danger, just as much as do morbid subjects that depict destruction and disintegration or repulsive materials (bathtub with a dissolving figure). During his assistant fellowship in the philosophy department of Düsseldorf’s Art Academy, thematic and existential questions were increasingly foregrounded. in a Beckett seminar, his assignment to become artistically engaged with this protagonist of the absurd was the stimulus for his first paper fold. the student used a sheet of white paper to approach the poet’s physiognomy.

Paper Folds
Similar to a sculptor who approaches a figure by chipping away at a substance or shaping it, Schubert followed the furrows around eyes and mouth by folding and pleating until the dramatist’s face, famili- ar from his works, emerged. “Folding a portrait is an attempt to infuse a portrait with multiple levels. on the one hand, the actual rendition of the face, on the other, the fragmentation and reduction of the medium, which is what you find in beckett’s stylistic and thematic medium, namely, paper as a writer’s innate material...”1
To the artist, his folded works are “sculptural drawings existing between two- and three-dimensional- ity.”2 this unique positive-negative folding technique was destined to develop into a more refined per- fection, an enriching of the details ad infinitum. Schubert’s highly complex interiors have long since advanced to the status of a trademark. What seems realistic and allows a supposition of concrete space is, however – with few exceptions – an optimal play on space. one that can only be pulled off by someone who has so internalized the rules of perspec- tival constructions that he can arbitrarily distort, manipulate and mutually redeploy them: an unusual “craft” for our times. Yet it is far more than this, since Schubert applies the stratagem of perspective with such lightness and redundancy that almost dizzying spatial situations arise.
Besides portraits and several freestanding buildings, he mostly folds interiors: wide, prestigious stair- cases as well as steeply rising steps, windows with crossbars in varying sizes and doors with elaborate panels. he aligns the whole into a strict central perspective, yet plays with its austerity and irritates the viewer with exuberantly rich details in his formulations of plank and parquet flooring, wood paneling, wood-turned stair posts, etc. the phenomenon of the reflection in the glass of the windows, doors or picture frames compounds our orientation, blurs the borderline between actual “space and space depiction”3 and makes it difficult for us to identify our own standpoint, so that viewers, insecure and caught, remain aloof “for fear of losing themselves”.4
Here the artist stands quite under the influence of the baroque view of the world à la Gilles Deleuze, which allows a reinvention of “classical reason”. With Deleuze, Schubert also finds a rich world of ideas that is reflected in his folded interiors. While Deleuze formulates the picture of a two-story house in which matter resides on the lower floor and the soul on the upper one, with Schubert a permanent interweave of rooms and levels takes place. “the event of world finds its realization in matter that is inscribed in the fold, as in a piece of marble. Whereby it is never immediate, but unfolds and is multiplied ad infinitum...” 5
The central theme of body and soul that philosophy and art engage in is con- cretized all the more thrillingly in Simon Schubert’s quasi-inanimate rooms, his “universe of coldness”.6 This corporeal conflict, the paper folds’ back and forth movement, the encircling of mysterious sculptures and figures, all unmask the presumed soullessness via its double-barreled aspects. the interiors are not in- animate, but by the absence of man point all the more to the phenomenon of personal existence. “The covert center of the sculpture is the viewer; in him/ her all the elements come together [...]. S/he is the integrating factor that lends the artwork its suspense; s/he is the one who envisions the narrative and com- pletes it.”7
The phenomenon of light is given a special role in Schubert’s paper folds, so as to perceive their multilayers and also the double entendre. The sophisticated lighting effects or the changes in the daylight “unfold” what is depicted and reveal the interior world. While the viewer moves around before the folds and inside the artist’s installations, the change of light and shadow (from sparkling white to all the off-white and gray values) betrays something of the surface and its makeup. The artist has deliberately calculated the shadows – here at times, gone at other times and, overall, fleeting – and incorporated them in the scenario. the shadows – since invisible – do not belong to the real world,8 and yet, through their existence, they confirm the reality of the objects.

Sculptures
Simon Schubert’s sculptures, just like the white paper folds, captivate by way of their perfect surfaces. his figures – cloned children holding hands in a circle, women, individual men or feathery creatures – at first glance seem like irritating, genuine co-inhabitants and exemplify the ambivalence of “re- ticence and disclosure”.9 on the other hand, walk-in rooms that recall a confessional (“Die verbotene Reprobation” from 2007 or “Monode”, 2008) are endlessly complex and offer experiences and in- sights that are comparable to the installations. excluded from the environs, the viewer is interiorized, yet not alone. besides the confined space, he must also bear the presence of an evasive figure. Simon Schubert is a master at the game of reality, which makes the abyss appear all the
deeper. he touches on the existential questions of human existence and masters the balancing act between aesthetic form and unfathomable content.
in the sculptures “Argode” and “Absentia” (2009), the artist integrates several spyholes, the small lenses that are usually embedded in a door so as to see into the room beyond. He uses the spyhole to peep into a sealed-off interior. there a space opens up whose dimensions are hardly fathomable, recalling the “shock aesthe- tics” in a surrealist film. Schubert has staged closed-off worlds with a destructive note, which help the seductive or repulsive power of the object to become all the more so in the sealed-off space. While the number of spyholes imply a good over- view, they are in reality “eyes” that are directed outwards to observe the viewer, while only a single one offers a view inwards. uneasy dread competes with magical attraction. Parallels to André breton intrude, who justified the destructive element in Surrealism as a means of breaking down the limitation of human vision.
Doors are a classical theme in art, literature, psychology and religion and represent the ambivalent relation between openness and demarcation, between the visible and the secluded. in Simon Schubert’s paper folds, doors are part of his classical repertoire; their manifold existence suggests a choice of possibilities, but also unfamiliar places.
In “Tür” 2012, Simon Schubert, took an actual door from an old building, enhanced its reality by giving it a perfect graphite surface and installed it in a room for “usage”. Memories are evoked of the image of a “Swinging Door” (porte battante) as André Breton called the porous threshold between past and present, night and day, as well as between dream and reality in his surrealist novel “Nadja”,10 which allows us to infer the passage into another place. The view through the spyhole is in contrast to our expectation. the view, accompanied by irritating bird chirping, leads to idyllic nature, yet this “wonderful” mood is mixed with other pictures, bitter speculations, inscrutable tales of lonliness and being cast aside.

Environments
In the large environments – “in Apnoesie”, 2009 at the Galerie upstairs berlin; “Haus Ascher”, 2011 magazin 4, Bregenz; “Schattenfuge”, 2012, Städtische Galerie Villa Zanders, Bergisch Gladbach large-scale paper works fuse with classical three-dimensional sculptures to an almost baroque Gesamtkunstwerk. This complex challenge appeals to Simon Schubert, since he is bent on a perfect illusion as regards holistic formulation as well as its details. the viewer comes from a calculable world – the gallery or museum room – and enters an artificial, white space that receives him in a completely contrasting mood: change in lighting, different flooring, as well as another sound perception. At first In Apnoesie, 2009, upstairs berlin impressed by the accuracy of the space engendered by the folds in the paper, s/he strides through the room, becomes a part of it and is drawn to the objects found within: wall lamps and candelabras, figures, or a festively set dining table. At a closer look, these works, conceived with strong contrasts, contain wondrous elements that contrast all the more with the aesthetics of an innocently white room: severed limbs, eels that slither through lavishly arranged fruit, faceless groups of figures im- mersed in conversation. these pieces – recalling dreams with absurdist interruptions and multipart artworks with surreal picture sequences planned and staged in meticulous detail – show Schubert’s art drive most tellingly: “...i try to find images for things that cannot be expressed in words.”11
The environment “Schattenfuge” [Shadow Fugue], in the Städtische Galerie Villa Zanders, for the first time contains real mirrors. the symmetrically arranged room ending in a bay with a central, festively-set table is reflected countless times in a line of opposing mirrors that are integrated into the folds of the paneled walls. the mirror evokes images of the room and the objects and persons it contains. the range of symbolism associated with the mirror comprises vanity and lust, but also self-knowledge, intelligence and truth. All of the latter is however thwarted if the mirrored visions cause you to lose the secure feel of a dependable world. the paperworks with mirror effects are taken a step further when the visitor enters an actual room and becomes a part of the stage set and simultaneously a part of the illusion. in analogy to a description of “Schattenfuge” in architecture as a seamline between two different functioning structural parts, Simon Schubert in this installation points poetically to the gap between reality and delusion.
For Schubert, whose mental and pictorial world has developed along the lines of Surrealism, this inscrutable play on the expectation of the viewer is an integral component of his artistic intention. hidden under a perfect surface, an “assault on the viewer”12 and on the conventional reception of art is what attracts him.
Jens Peter Koerver

1 S. Schubert in an interview with Simone Kraft, deconarch.com, summer 2011 2 ibid.
3 S. Schubert in conversation with rene S. Spiegelberger, April 2010, published in: Unikat II by rene S. Spiegelberger Stiftung, hamburg
4 Franz van der Grinten, ibid. p. 10
5 christian Schlüter: “Die Falte zwischen Leib und Seele“ in: Die Zeit, 17 nov 1995
6 rené Passeron in reference to rené magritte in: Magritte par René Passeron, 1970, German, cologne 1985, p. 26
7 matthias Kross “Gian Lorenzo bernini. Die Verzückung der heiligen theresia“ in: Der Betrachter im Bild. ed. by
Wolfgang Kemp, Cologne, 1985, p. 152
8 Ernst h. Gombrich, Schatten. Ihre Darstellung in der abendländischen Kunst, Berlin 1996, p. 18
9 Franz van der Grinten, “Flächen und Tiefe“ in: Unikat II, publ. by Rene S. Spiegelberger Stiftung, Hamburg, p. 8 10 André Breton: Nadja, first edition 1928
11 S. Schubert in conversation with Simone Kraft, ibid.
12 Simon Schubert in a conversation in February 2012


Limmat (Grossmuenster), 2017, 100 x 70cm, Graphit auf Papier

Limmat (Grossmuenster), 2017, 100 x 70cm, Graphit auf Papier

Limmat (St. Peter), 2017, 100 x 70cm, Graphit auf Papier

Limmat (St. Peter), 2017, 100 x 70cm, Graphit auf Papier


EXHIBITIONS

SOLO

2017

Im Zweifel für den Zweifel, van der Grinten Galerie, Cologne

2016

Wo auch immer ist jetzt, Galerie Thomas Modern, Munich

Jenseits von Ideen, Galerie Wagner und Partner, Berlin

GALLERIES

Galerie Thomas Modern München | www.galerie-thomas.de

van der Grinten Galerie Köln | http://vandergrintengalerie.com/

Michael Foley Gallery New York | www.foleygallery.com


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