Paul Pretzer, Kleines Klagelied, 2010, Oil on Canvas, 130 x 110 cm
"The only possible answer is the question itself" - Eugéne Ionesco
Hamish Morrison Galerie is delighted to present an exhibition of new paintings by Paul Pretzer. Milch und Mortadella
Pretzer's characters and scenarios seem disturbingly familiar. They lead us to the trails of ancient, everlasting stories which have accompanied us since time immemorial. It seems as if Pretzer has distilled the essences of various literary genres and different styles of painting into his own alchemical process, adding that secret substance, known only to the artist, that enables the artist to transform them into his own individual imagery .
This could perhaps explain the universal reactions that are provoked by Pretzer's paintings regardless of the individual and cultural background of each individual viewer. Thoughts of Rumpelstiltskin are just as fitting as memories of stories from the Arabian Nights; allusions to ETA Hoffmann's `small Zaches' are as accurate as echoes of the absurd theater of Ionesco. Maybe even it was Robert Crumb's `Mr. Natural ' that was the inspiration for the bearded man levitating above a strawberry-field.
Pretzer's most recent paintings are still populated with unsettling characters, but they build a more complex and dynamic dialogue with the art of the past, and most particularly with Spanish and Dutch painting. Pretzer takes some of art history's most revered traditions and poses absurd "what if?" questions. For example, what if one of Rembrandt's sitters was in fact a pig in ruffles plucking a balalaika? Or what if a Dutch still-life was invaded by a single slice of mortadella with a face - turning the whole scene into a strange, delicatessen-counter memento mori? And what if one of Vermeer's sitters, instead of posing plaintively, bit into a stretchy toad? In a new development for Pretzer, there are also large-scale works that resemble Spanish history paintings in their dramatic lighting, brushwork, quasi-religious settings and subject matter - but once again, the precise stories they refer to are obscured by Pretzer's surreal ambiguity. His titles too, play on this absurdity. The overall effect is to disrupt our comfortable acceptance of painterly traditions, and pose uncomfortable questions about our own relationships with his characters and their actions.
Clearly then, these works aren't just slavish copies; instead, Pretzer appropriates the Old Masters to create a world uniquely his own - one that has as much to do with The Simpsons as it does with Velazquez. By shining a theatrical light on some of art history's heroes, he creates a truly original, contemporary body of work. And in the process, he proves that figurative painting still has plenty of life left in it.
A catalogue in German and English, with an essay by Mathias Wagner, will be published on the occasion of the exhibition.
Paul Pretzer was born in Paide, Estonia in 1981. Since completing a Master of Fine Arts at Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Dresden in 2007, he has established himself as one of Germany's most exciting young painters. His work has been shown in Germany, USA, Italy and Switzerland, and was recently included in "Golden Agers & Silver Surfers" at Kunsthaus Baselland, Basel. He has already received several awards and residencies, and his paintings are held in numerous collections, including the Rubell Family Collection, SØR Rusche Collection, Bundesbank Dresden and the Städtische Galerie Dresden. Pretzer lives and works in Dresden.