Dark light, bright light
18.09. – 05.11.2021
Selection of exhibited work
About the exhibition
Dark light, bright light
Clouds over Schmalix
Hubert Schmalix’ paintings have never been populated by many people. Besides the striding Christ, in the past there were several female nudes standing lost in a monochrome desert or sinking into an ocean of ornaments. Often, they stoically acknowledged their as yet unknown destiny as shackled women. It is not impossible that they even welcomed this exclusive situation. To this day, Hubert Schmalix’ landscapes have become increasingly empty, as well as clearer and more stereotypical. They can no longer be defined as a topographical reality. Rather, they are clichés or idealised landscapes. They exist only partially in reality and remain phantasmagoria. Schmalix has always made the world seem more colourful – an Arcadia that neither art nouveau nor Walt Disney would have been able to realise more boldly. The red hills, yellow rivers and purple trees allow us a glimpse of paradise – or is it just an equally magnificent and monumental comic after all.
In any case, a person suddenly appears here. An old white man. Things have become a little precarious for him in recent years. His laws are obsolete, his wards have fled and his followers are becoming radicalised. He himself holds his hand in front of his mouth, falls and, while lying on the ground, seems to rail against his god. He is in danger of being exiled from his self-created paradise. Lying helplessly on the ground, he becomes Job, whose god took everything from him and gave him illnesses in order to test him and gauge the depth of this faith.
But Hubert Schmalix’ paintings can also be viewed from another perspective. What if yellow rivers, purple hills and orange fields don’t originate from paradise, but are simply contaminated, polluted habitats where nothing seems possible anymore and life can only be managed through comprehensive crisis management? How quickly what was once so positive and pleasant turned into torment and has begun to threaten our existence. The old white man was always seen as wise, as a philosopher, hippie, general, business magnate, teacher, playboy, entertainer, priest, etc. Suddenly, he falls and we take a peek behind the colourful backdrop he has erected. Will his god return unto the old white man his paradise and will he in turn pass it on to us?
Hubert Schmalix’ paintings seem to make us suddenly aware of something unforeseen. As artificial as they appear, they are nonetheless ambiguous. What initially began as aesthetic calculation, comes to an abrupt end in reality. Through their ambiguity, the paintings are also consoling and give us the reassuring feeling that they are just paintings. Images – including the multitude of media images – provide us elbowroom. They give us spaces for identification, for imagination and reformation.
Collection curator and deputy department head
Neue Galerie, Universalmuseum Joanneum
Lobkowitzplatz 3 / Spiegelgasse 25, 1010 Wien