On ViewKasmin Gallery
April 27–June 3, 2023
In New Paintings at Kasmin Gallery, Jan-Ole Schiemann utilizes a segmented compositional structure to annotate different modes of mark marking. The artist makes extensive use of pastiche within the gaps of the picture plane, in a process that disconnects signs from the literalness of representation. Each canvas relies on a Cartesian x-y axis, often employing a striping motif that invites parallels with artists as various as Matisse and Robert Motherwell, while also contextualizing each painting as a series of positions. New Paintings marks a departure from Schiemann’s past interest in Day-Glo synthetic color and connects his practice more directly with the Neo-Expressionist palette of the eighties, while suggesting that the painted canvas is a marker for the wall mural and graffiti of decades past.
Schiemann’s paintings have previously engaged in a kind of Neo-Cubist abstraction of representation, one passed through a playful and non-hierarchical conflation of popular culture, street art, and modernism. This has been a practice of automatic painting that adopted the visual stances of Max Fleischer as much as those of the gestural abstract painters of the canon. Schiemann’s past interest in the vaudeville motif of tumbling has turned into a kind of visual frieze. There is certainly more restraint—the gloved hand of a Disney character has been reduced to marks that imply vibration or movement. Here Schiemann is working with a shallow picture plane that runs lateral and reads from left to right, where the emergence and recession of painterly events are bracketed and limited within each earthy stripe. While his previous works felt like a more direct investigation of Cubism’s cut-up affect, his new works feel like a scanner bed of suggestions and proposals for ways of experimenting through gestural expressionism—a kind of compressed haunting of impingements that the eye strafes across.
Schiemann has removed the drop shadow and overlay that characterized the works seen in 2019 in his last show with Kasmin, A Different Pose. He is now dealing with flatness and all of its relations to categorizing principles of gesture, as past interests in shadow and illusionistic depth have been replaced with staining and filling. Most of the paintings in the exhibition reveal a fragmented body: the hands, feet, and bones that the artist produces in ink simulate spread and gravity, while their inkiness situates them somewhere adjacent to the language of the Gutai group. This gestalt produces something spectral—a liberated phantomic body. It is a ka that has been reduced to a semiotic roadmap of touch and sensation, a trail of bronchial hands made of exposed nerves. In o.T. (2023), the artist implies a setting sun, and two arms stretching down the canvas, clenching and unclenching their shadowy fingers in spurling twists. Here we find ingredients for a history painting in dishabille, a nascent Elegy to the Spanish Republic, 108 (1965–67) with an inky body spreading over the surface.
The expansive spaces of ochre and drenched earth tones allow Schiemann to maintain the energy of his past work while exploring new proximities of reference. The vertes, siennas, and oxides are ores found in basins and reservoirs, revealing the landscape to ground the haptic experience. With their reduced color palette, the stakes of each painting are in its congress of marks, with each expressionistic event feeling separate and distinct from its neighbor. Throughout his striping we find recurring geometries: a curvilinear and pill-shaped form, a shape that in geometry is referred to as a stadium, that could stand in as a speaking bubble. Its presence often denotes a kind of passage within the picture. If we are to view them as scenes, Schiemann often includes a grouping of parallel lines, in combination standing for a vent or possibly a flag.
Schiemann’s compositions structure zones of expression, a series of impulsive and planned forms, highways intended for trespassing. There’s restraint to the number of moves he allows himself. Each mark is a one-shot, discreet from the others, that at times undermines what the other gestural events mean to imply. In Poseur (2023) a diagonal rectangle lies across the surface. It is an index of an object, possibly a 1×4 board, that Schiemann has traced out onto the surface. It is a different logic of mark—one that implies a physical presence and relates the painting back to the production of actions in the studio, while also suggesting that the painting might be performing as a kind of Ab Ex trompe l’oeil. This indexing complicates the haptic sensorial landscape and feels congruent with Schiemann’s continued interest in tumbling: a Buster Keaton pratfall out of Neo-Expressionism and into its simulacrum.