[May 11 2009]
An extract of his itw by Wenston Bingham for the amazing East Village Boys (read itw in integrality)
Ecstasy and loss. Adolescence and Vulnerability. Beauty and decadence. That is how 30 year-old Christian Schoeler has described his work. Devastatingly beautiful, intimate watercolor or oil paintings that share as much with contemporary fashion photography as they do with pre-photography portraiture. A “style” and approach that is perhaps unfashionable relative to the contemporary art ’scene’, but arguably timelessly fashionable. He even eschews the über-scene of Berlin for his hometown of Düsseldorf.
WB: Since photography was “invented”, painted portraits have suffered a quick decline. What are you bringing back to portraiture that photography has perhaps forgotten?
CS: In the time of absolute rulers, the portrait of a monarch was intended as an object of worship. The portrayal as such would therefore not necessarily depict a realistic image of the model but an idealized image of a person worthy of worship. In a way I also idealize the models in my paintings – I am referring to what used to be called the Antlitz. The difference, however, lies in my treatment of the original object. I don’t really focus on the actual appearance, but try to capture my own impression of it. The process of idealization inherent in my work is therefore not governed by conventions, but is a manifestation of my individual point of view. I guess you could say that I infuse the portrait with a part of myself.
WB: Are you pursuing perfection?
CS: Yes, that’s what painting is all about to my mind. Simply because perfection is unattainable, the ideas surrounding it are the most interesting. It may be inevitable to fail in the name of perfection, but I guess you fail successfully.
WB: Beyond the formal concepts of beauty and idealization, what other ideas are you exploring?
CS: I don’t think of beauty in terms of ideals communicated by the media or by physical appearance. These concepts simply don’t interest me very much when painting. After all, it’s about beautiful paintings and not about beautiful boys. In the end I could even paint beautiful paintings of cars or trees. The subject you decide on is closely connected to your approach to painting. The boys all have this craving desire – a longing for corporal integrity that manifests itself in very specific ideas of fragile beauty. They are aware of the glances they get and openly join the game in the way they move, the way they seek closeness to their own body, however, to my mind it’s more of a sign of their longing for physical integrity and a sound soul rather than expression and seduction. If I could I would have them as miniatures for an alternative reality.
WB: Aside from the sheer beauty of your paintings, and the intimacy of the renderings, is there anything particularly “gay” about your work?
CS: Yes, I think there is something like a ‘gay’ perspective. The homosexual body is particularly sensualized and carries different connotations than the heterosexual body. Also, I’m quite positive that my view on the male body is different from heterosexual perspectives – after all it’s queer, isn’t it?
WB: You don’t seem to be concerned with social or political commentary or subject-matter, as many contemporary artists are. where do you place yourself in the contemporary art “scene”?
CS: All I am interested in is realizing my ideas of beautiful, maybe even innocent paintings. I don’t want to provoke or hurt people with what I do. That would mean questioning my own innocence and leading to a concept of art that I don’t share. I’m not a ‘modern’ artist and I don’t want to position myself within a specific scene. I guess my paintings are more of a private obsession than a statement on our society. I know and love the works of Collier Schorr, Hernan Bas, Andrew Mania, Nick Mauss and Elizabeth Peyton and if I had to associate myself with a specific scene, I would surely choose theirs. I don’t have contacts in that direction, but I don’t think that this is due to where I live. Whether it’s Düsseldorf, Berlin or any other city is of minor importance to me because I also don’t feel connected to any scene in terms of location.
WB: Your work actually seems to have a lot in common with late 19th Century American painters. Any particular reason for this, or is this just a superficial observation?
CS: No, in fact this is a very accurate observation. I am very much interested in the forms of abstraction and the color tones that are found in those paintings. Every element of my work passes through the filter of those somewhat detached yet soulful times, but I don’t really see this as a regressive element in my work. I understand it as an effort to identify the contemporary as a rewording of that which has always been there, though I’m running the risk of sounding sentimental and pompous.