The painter René Schoemakers, who was born on the Lower Rhine and lives and works in Kiel, talks about the central message of his artistic work during his interview.
Please describe the core theme and the central message of your work.
Describing the core theme of one’s own work is not actually the task of the artist himself. Firstly, he has no need to do so while working, and secondly, it suggests that he is working based on a theme. But that is not the case.
München leuchtet | Deutscher Herbst (Theresienwiese)
2018/19, Acrylic/Canvas, 130 x 200 cm
Artists make art when artists make art. Starting from a first step, everything develops according to the laws of the material (in the broadest sense). This also means that there is no self-imposed thematic guideline that is important. The theme emerges in the process.
Studio, Preliminary work for München leuchtet I, 2019
Photo: © R. Schoemakers
This means that in retrospect, if you look at the entire production of an artist, you can already recognise focal points. However, these are not the results of a thematic definition, but the result of subjective production. In this respect, the idea of the “death of the author”, of the artist subject, is a disturbingly naive notion. It is backed up by a naïve idea of authorship, an easy target.
The deed – main actors since 1987
Photo: © Tom Fechtner, 2021
Nevertheless, when I look back at my work, it crystallizes, for example, that it is always about the relationship between individuality and the general. It is a special feature of my work that the personnel in the paintings is very limited. You recognize the person in the painting in other paintings and the question automatically arises whether this person is actually to be seen in the painting, i.e., whether he or she is meant. Unlikely, then they would be portraits. But they are not. But these figures are also not arbitrary representatives of roles in the painting, pure actors, too much individuality pushes its way back to the surface.
BDM – Weltgeist (Image and planned wall design, detail)
2021-22, Museum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Dortmund
This tension between the surface and what lies beneath it is often the subject of the paintings. Not only by the example of subjectivity, but also in general in the reference to different levels of symbolization and representation. And often this inevitability of reference to pre-existing sign systems is also exposed in the painting by the fact that many things in it appear primitive, handmade, and recognizably improvised. There are so many surfaces evoking the question of what lies beneath, a question that the viewer must answer for himself. At the same time, the unmistakable presence of the same individuals in these completely arbitrary settings reminds us precisely of this question. This is, I think, a tension that is created constantly and that prevents one from slipping into a pure glass bead game.
2019, Acrylic/Canvas, Wall drawing, foil, approx. 20 x 20 cm
Introduce to us the work that, in your view, exemplifies or best embodies the message of your work.
You can look at the works in the current series deinos | mashup, which also forms the core of the next large exhibition at the Museum of Art and Cultural History in Dortmund. In these works, there are right-wing extremist figures, images and symbol systems as an overarching thematic context, but they are being broken with the means of my working approach. For example, there is the modified replica of the 1980 Oktoberfest assassination, one of my daughters in the recreated fantasy uniform of Anders Breivik (i.e. the imitation of an imitation) or of Karl-Heinz Hoffmann.
A central motif is also a figure on a cardboard replica throne, adorned with an iron cross.
Studio, Preliminary works for Der böhse Paul, 2019
Photos: © R. Schoemakers
The main figure, the artist himself, shows a head of the Pink Panther that he presumably killed – with the Minecraft sword in his hand. Where the head is severed, however, he has a kind of wound on his own neck, recognizably not real, and a pink costume slides from his paint-covered body.
Der Böhse Paul (Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh)
2019, Acrylic/Canvas 180 x 120 cm
The reference to the Pink Panther is the NSU’s confession video, who also committed an assassination in Dortmund. At the same time, however, there are pictorial elements that refer to other images in the series and older series that cannot be discussed here.
2019, Acrylic/Canvas, 160 x 120 cm
There are two decisive aspects that can be shown here. On the one hand, the effort made in the run-up to the creation of the painting (it’s not so much fun to paint your whole body grey and pink…), and on the other hand, the complex symbolic references. The reference to the work of the band Magma mentioned in the title also plays a role in the painting, as does the Hortus Deliciarum by Herrad von Landsberg. But when I get to these levels of references, usually no one follows any more anyway…
I do not follow it while working either. The only thing that counts is the sensual persuasiveness of the painting itself. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be a painter. But even that is not conveyed in the flat reproduction on a screen or in a book. The complexity of painting in its material aspect is unfortunately just as difficult to communicate as the complexity of painting in its ideal aspect.
2019, Acrylic/Canvas, 160 x 120 cm
What is the aim of your art, your work, what is it supposed to achieve in the viewer?
That he can’ t get rid of the images. That he must follow the ramifications as obsessively as the artist himself. The pleasure of fractal complexity in the sensual and conceptual.
But actually, I only paint nice little pictures, harmless stuff.
Gerald Heidegger, editor-in-chief of ORF, has written a detailed text on the series of works and their backgrounds that can be accessed online (in German language).
THE DEED | DAS WERK is a complementary and separately presented part of THE INTERVIEW IN|DEEDS with René Schoemakers.
This post is also available in: Deutsch