When looking at a Matthias Weischer canvas one gets the eerie feeling that one is staring at a long-deserted room in which the presence of its last inhabitant has been preserved in a strange way. Weischer paints interiors that are almost always devoid of people, their absence being the true subject. The people who inhabit these rooms have long gone, but could be expected back at any moment and the viewer is left with an oppressive feeling of the imminent drama of contemporary living, in which model living is reflected as both desire and anxiety. Delving into the reality of our contemporary living spaces, Weischer spells out the claustrophobic narrowness and fragility of the rooms we inhabit and their rudimentary architecture.
The focus of Weischer's work is the experience that results from the fusion of space and time: for him space is a conceptual enigma. In his paintings, Weischer deals systematically with the problem of representation, exploring space through the construction and deconstruction of these imagined interiors, creating enigmatic images of spaces within spaces, with panel-like shapes and walls that open to the exterior with no given logic. Sometimes his spaces appear to turn into mirror halls in which multiple images fan out from corners and paintings on the walls, windows and door frames or television monitors, building up layers of paint and creating overlapping perspectives and incongruous settings.
His interiors possess a dream-like quality, as if they were remembered or imagined spaces in which all spatial logic is defied and where there is no straightforward interrelation between the objects that occupy them. These spatial configurations often have a confused perception of what is inside and what is outside, and they possess an incongruous perspective that alludes to a sense of the uncanny and the surreal. Often materialised in matt colours, in bleach sand tones, these surreal interiors are then filled with objects, the space on display being a site where new images and forms are just in the process of coming into being, and they appear mostly to be off-kilter and floating in space. Weischer furnishes the spaces with a décor that is unacceptable in fashion timeline, he places 'props', still lifes and drapery and adding colour as if it were a building material. He builds layer upon layer, adding printed fabrics, carpets and wall paper, using their repetitive motifs to interplay with codes and styles and often resulting in Escher-like visual riddles.
Each canvas exposes the making of its improbable construction. Adding on paint in thick layers in some places and scrapping it off in others to reveal an underlying grid, Weischer veers in style from a tidy formalism to expressionist gesture in order to achieve his unsettling effects. Sometimes with depth, sometimes completely flat, the perspective shifts from flatness to 3D, constantly complicating the orientation of the viewer. In some places the thick impasto rises almost sculpturally from the pictorial plane and smudges and dripped paint are placed beside patterned planes, such as carpets, that appear as hard-edge abstract areas.
Weischer's paintings are highly virtuosic. It becomes immediately apparent that he possesses a very strong knowledge of the art that came before him and follows his own desires as a painter. Returning constantly to the topoi of the history of painting, in a constant intellectual play, he subtly references Surrealism, Dutch landscape painting, the Flemish masters of the 17th Century and even Pop Art, in a way that shows just how contemporary painting can play with all the codes and deal freely with all the forms of representation.
Weischer, who currently lives and works in Liepzig, is a mainstay of the much lauded New Leipzig School, a movement of young, mainly representational painters who studied at the Leipzig Academy of Visual Arts, many of whom also participated in the LIGA project in 2002, a producer's gallery that hosted many very successful shows and attracted much critical attention, heralding the re-birth of painting. The meteoric rise of the Liga painters has been compared to that of the Young British Artists in the last decade and belongs within the new wave of figurative painting practiced by some of today's most prominent artists.
In Untitled (Interior) we are confronted with an incongruous interior reminscent of a precarious stage construction of panels. The heavy dark ceiling and floor give a claustrophobic effect that is immediately contradicted by the wall on the right that opens out to an idyllic landscape, which on closer inspection is more akin to a 1970s kitsch restaurant mural. That it is incomplete only adds to the caprice. The brownish colouring of the walls and the heavy red curtain bring to mind the gloomy Flemish Old Master interiors. The exterior view is reminiscent of classical landscape paintings. Many layers of paint create a lustrous impasto that contrasts with the stark interior. The ceiling feels heavy and oppressive, as if weighed down by the axis of the painting. The red curtain dramatically divides the painting, part safety curtain on a stage, part painterly device, it is a deliberate prop to seduce the viewer into the picture plane. Matthias Weischer has created an unsettling space that captures and retains the viewers attention. With a quiet subversion of logic and simple props he has managed to make this interior strangely surreal, oppressive and theatrical, evocative more of a state of mind rather than of an actual place.