“This feverish attention to the overall affect of the work is a direct result of an existential yearning for communion with the natural world.”
Courtesy of the artist.
Jean-Marc Schwaller, Sans Titre
By: Jill Smith
Jean-Marc’s work is bold and vivacious. He employs a gestural mark against saturated color fields, creating a luminous intensity that pulsates in front of the viewer. Using thin, seamless glazes contrasted with thick impastoed marks, his work stands out among his contemporaries. His work is sublime and emotionally contemplative. But most of all, they are some of the most moving paintings I’ve seen in a long time. Moving, aptly describes the sensuous surfaces that seem to emanate light from within and project light as well. This quality is most noticeable in his process. His process allows for addition and subtraction, erasure and palimpsest, uniquely curtailing the crevices that arise. This feverish attention to the overall affect of the work is a direct result of an existential yearning for communion with the natural world.
His work, Sans Titre, is a refulgent, lyrical abstraction that is deeply melancholic and grand. It reminds me of a hollowed out cave, deep, ancient and mysterious. I recently interviewed Jean-Marc to find out more about his work.
Jill Smith: You started your artistic career as a student of drawing, what was it that propelled you into the world of paint?
Jean-Marc Schwaller: As you can see in the catalog Magnol Jacques, I completed my studies at the University of Bern to teach Visual Arts. Along with my teaching (which I practiced for 10 years), I had a workshop and I was working with paint. I set out fairly quickly, and my work became recognized. So I decided to quit teaching to devote myself entirely to painting. Which is what I still do even today.
JS: Your recent pieces have large swaths of white or negative space that is equally significant and attention grabbing as the patches of color on your canvases, what is it about the idea of the negative that appeals to you as an artist?
JMS: What I seek in painting is color and light. The light of a table will be more intense if it is contrasted with darker tones.
JS: Do you find that being Swiss informs the art you create in a certain way?
JMS: I live near a tiny town (Freiburg) of 40,000 inhabitants. It is a place where artistic activity is very dense. We can take the example of Basel, which is not a very big city but is, in the plastic range, a leading global pole, by museums, galleries and fairs. Art Basel is one of the most significant fairs worldwide, and that is just Switzerland. Through exposure and education we’ve welcomed, many people interested in culture, including visual art.
JS: Your canvases’ are imbued with a luminescent quality, do you find that it is the interplay of color or the gestural nature of your painting style that contributes to this iridescence?
JMS: Of course, it’s both! I start off with a concrete idea, for example “water gardens”, where I find the idea of reflection, of vegetation. I then paint the essence of the image in a grand gesture on the body of the canvas, all of which is connected like a web, combining color, light and energy. I work on the ground and paint with my whole body. The iridescence that emanates from my paintings depends on the color and gesture.
JS: Would you say that you depend more on color or the stroke of your brush to evoke emotion and communicate a narrative?
JMS: I don’t want the viewer to feel the “effort” or “difficulty” of the painting technique, rather I want it all to blend giving the impression that it all came together in one motion. The color and movement are inseparable elements in the structure of the piece.
Currently, I’ve been working like crazy for an exhibition at Abu Dhabi and Dubai which will be presented after Easter.
Jean-Marc’s work finds its predecessors in the work of Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman. Much like these modern masters, his motifs explore the compositional potential of color and form on the human psyche. His color combines with sweeping gestures to create daring works of awesome power and intellect To stand in front of a Jean-Marc is to be in the presence of the pulsing vibrancy of his large canvases; and it is to feel, the fleeting nature of sublime spirituality.