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An artistic walk through Hell

INTERVIEW. New Leipzig School artist David Schnell brings a show of remarkable new oil-on-canvas works to Eigen + Art. His new exhibition makes one realise the past is only a preface to what he has yet to come. Catch it before it ends on Oct 18.

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Photo by Alberto Novelli

New Leipzig School artist David Schnell brings a show of remarkable new oil-on-canvas works to Eigen + Art.

David Schnell’s landscape painting broke the art market in the early 2000s, when he hit the scene as part of the illustrious ‘New Leipzig School’ painting gallery LIGA. It seemed that he couldn’t get any higher, yet after a decade, some time in Rome, and a few more recent painting series behind him, he has returned with a show that makes one realise the past is only a preface to what he has yet to come….

Some artists stop trying once they reach such initial, huge success as you did. What kept you going?

I really don’t understand why some artists do this – work and then quiet down and just ‘produce’ for different exhibitions. This wouldn’t make me happy. I still have this need to make something new – always using different forms of painting, or always bringing in new elements. Every picture is a bit of a walk through hell – there’s always close examination, but what one sees at the end is the result of a process, always with fractures and detours…

What was your working process this time? Did you have a clear concept in mind?

During the LIGA time, everything was very constructed, with very clear surfaces, very architectural, then I broke things open and everything became ever-more painterly, almost impressionistic. Now, I am at this point where I have acquired a very bright spectrum on painting possibilities, with which I can operate and new aspects are constantly being added to it.

For example in this show, there’s a painting that is very dark, but it’s actually made dark by using very thin turpentine instead of painting in black. This thin colour that runs down over the painting gives it this sort of structure that I didn’t know before, and this brings me into a more complex form of painting. There are several paintings, which were initiated by a colour I found in Rome, in the churches or on old postcards from the 1970s. This idea: “Always like it was”. There are these spaces that are often beautiful, sometimes not. Spaces that are frequently used, but never changed. I took this idea and built a landscape out of it.

How did you adapt to such a small space?

I had to think a lot about what to paint, what kind of size, how big can the painting be (in this case) to still open up the space, or to close it. In this case, I had a very clear idea about where the paintings would hang. To make it work. So in some way more than in other exhibitions I had definite relationships between the paintings in mind. Making it a more interesting environment.

You’re now starting a record label, NYT, with Sebastian Kretzschmar… how does this coincide with your painting?

It’s difficult to say. Before I studied painting in Leipzig, I was into the hardcore and hip hop music scenes in Cologne. We did fanzines and I did drawings for record covers. It was completely different – it wasn’t academic. Right now I am starting this record label, and I am very involved not in designing the cover, but rather thinking about what kind of artists and what kind of graphic designers could work together with a musician, something similar perhaps to organizing a fanzine.

But classical painting really expands my horizon out of the indie scene – with classical medium and classical content. Landscape and perspectives are repeatedly blown open. I could imagine myself in future exhibitions working on a more installative level, but painting for me is truly a channel in which I can most simply translate these other influences.

David Schnell, Through October 18. | Eigen + Art, Auguststr. 26, Mitte, U-Bhf Rosenthaler Platz, Tue-Sat 11-18.

Originally published in issue #131, October 2014.