Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
Through October 9, KÖNIG GALERIE in Seoul is hosting a solo exhibition of new work by Matthias Weischer. The exhibition is timed with the inaugural Frieze Seoul this week. The German painter created 12 new works for “MIRRORS AND THINGS,” depicting interior spaces filled with everyday objects, where optical illusions render viewers with an incomplete observation of the world. Illusion and perspective play important roles in Weischer’s oil-on-canvas depictions, and the artist utilizes rough-finished surfaces in a manner that makes viewers question whether or not they are in fact new works, especially considering the scenes are reminiscent of the former GDR era.
Weischer’s work is considered representative of the New Leipzig School of figurative painting while presenting a discussion on real and depicted spaces seen in the larger German art world. Based in Leipzig, his work has been included in numerous group exhibitions and private collections around the world in addition to several international solo exhibitions.
Whitewall had the opportunity to speak with Weischer right before the opening of “MIRRORS AND THINGS” to discuss the exhibition.
WHITEWALL: What was the starting point for this exhibition at KÖNIG in Seoul?
MATTHIAS WEISCHER: About a year ago I started to think about the show and made some initial decisions. This meant that, at first, I thought about the dimensions of the space and then about the maximum size of the canvases. These are quite practical considerations at the beginning. When I start to paint, I don’t exactly know how it will evolve. Many small steps lead to a result, which is surprising, even to me. Frequently, I start abstractly and from there, objects begin to appear, one after another—walls, a floor, a ceiling—and at the very end, furniture.
WW: From where does the exhibition name, "MIRRORS AND THINGS," come?
MW: Mirrors have appeared in my paintings for quite a while now. As a topic, I still find them fascinating. They are hybrids: On the one hand, you can see them as objects (when they cast a shadow on the wall), and on the other hand, they produce two-dimensional images on a flat screen. This is in a way programmatic for my paintings. The things you see appear three-dimensionally, but in the end, painting is a two-dimensional medium.
WW: You've created 12 new works for the show. Can you tell us about them? Their scale, their focus, any new directions you've followed?
MW: This group of paintings has grown together over the course of a year. They were hanging on the walls of my studio next to each other and were finished nearly at the same time. In a way, they represent one body of work. Each painting has to function on its own, but together they have to work as an exhibition. Therefore, each painting is dominated by a strong color. You can find big color fields, which give the rhythm when your eyes wander through the gallery.
WW: How are you thinking about showing these works in Seoul? Did that impact the way you approached the work?
MW: Somehow, in the last months, I came across traditional Korean art. Chaekgeori is a genre of still-Life painting that really caught my interest and somehow found its way into my paintings. East Asian art always had an impact on my work. I also look a lot at Chinese paintings and Japanese prints. To combine the eastern and the western traditions was a challenge for me and is, in a way, the theme of the show.
WW: Much of your work lies in the in-between of abstract and realistic depictions of life. What makes this space so intriguing?
MW: Space is a universal language and can be expressed in so many different ways. I am always dealing with space and the possibilities of depicting it. By bringing the eastern and the western traditions together, like I am trying to do in this group of paintings, you become aware of the different concepts of depicting space. One point perspective can go together with reverse perspective, some objects have strong shadows, some have none, there are abstract elements, and highly realistic objects. All of this meets in one space.
WW: What can you say about your choice to implement a rough surface on many of your works?
MW: The rough surface is crucial for me. The walls define the space and form the vessel for all the objects. I love to paint these walls and to dig into space. The texture is the result of many layers of paint and the use of different tools. Mostly, I work with a huge spatula. I think the viewer can see my physical exertion and respond to its materiality, maybe stimulating a person’s own tactile experiences. So far, I haven’t found a more appropriate way to paint interiors, it is always connected to this kind of rough materiality.
WW: Why do you choose this finish as opposed to a more traditional smooth finish on oil paintings?
MW: It may be that I will try other ways of painting. At the moment, I am experimenting with tempera, and there is a constant search for new material. What I am doing now is the result of an individual development and for me an adequate way to show the majesty of space. It would be thrilling if I could do that in a completely different manner.
WW: What do your days look like when you're creating?
MW: Roughly between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. I am in the studio painting or drawing. This is my most productive time during the day. Then, I do a lunch break and meet friends and colleagues in some places near the studio. This is my social time, and I am fortunate that a number of people live and work around me, and that they have a similar rhythm. At 3 p.m., I continue with the work and stay in the studio until 7 p.m.
This describes a normal day when I am in the middle of an intense working period. This can last for several months. During the pandemic, this routine helped me a lot and kept me going for quite a while. Now, I am happy to leave this routine from time to time and to be able to travel again.
WW: You've said before that you don't plan your paintings ahead of time. Is that still the case for you? Has it ever been problematic for you? Maybe when you're on a deadline?
MW: It is important to have deadlines, although it is challenging, and they are often very hard to meet. It forces me to come to a result and I have to keep surpassing myself. The thing is, I cannot really predict the result. You cannot think a painting, you have to do it. Even the next brushstroke can be a surprise and can change everything. Now I have enough experience to be certain that I can finish a painting within a certain period of time, but I always end up with a result that is kind of surprising.
WW: Your work has developed over the years. What used to be people-less interiors became landscapes and pieces including figures. What is the next direction you want to take it?
MW: Now I have finished a group of paintings and soon I will start to work again. I really love to start a painting. At the beginning, I have great ambitions and every white canvas is a promise. I guess, I won’t do radical changes in the near future, but maybe introduce some new elements or try a slightly different way of painting. A great source of my inspiration is drawing from nature, which is always a good start for the next period. At the moment, I am experimenting with the iPad, and I am sure that this will have an impact on my paintings. In the next three weeks, I will travel through Korea and maybe this will give me a few new ideas—let’s see.
WW: What other shows and projects do you have coming up?
MW: Next, I will have a show together with a friend in Italy. We will exhibit a number of works together in the Coppola Foundation in Vicenza. Also, next year I will have a show at Grimm Gallery in New York. These are my plans so far.