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Aargauer Kunsthaus is devoting a comprehensive exhibition to Stefan Gritsch
Installation view of Stefan Gritsch. Bones n' Roses, 18.5. – 11.8.2019, Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau © 2018, ProLitteris, Zürich. Photo: Julian Salinas.

AARAU.- Twenty-five years after his last solo show at the Aargauer Kunsthaus, the museum is devoting a comprehensive exhibition titled “Bones n' Roses” to Stefan Gritsch (b. 1951). The practice of this nationally acclaimed artist is, in the broadest sense, rooted in painting. Aside from the recurring exploration of paint as material, the exhibition mainly presents current work, including numerous pieces conceived especially for this exhibition.

The exploration of the visible and making visible is the driving force in the work of Stefan Gritsch. In this context, painting is the conceptual point of departure for expanding the work to other genres – drawing, sculpture, photography, printmaking – and to find three-dimensional, installation-based as well as performative formulations for them. The Aarau exhibition explicitly aims to do justice to this wide range of Gritsch’s artistic practice and also familiarise the public to lesser-known groups of works. As a result, the show may surprise some Gritsch experts. It is arranged in the form of an installation-based course. At the same time, it is subject to selective interventions by the artist himself. In this way, Gritsch creates an exhibition that is in motion.

Stefan Gritsch already fully immerses us in his work in the very first gallery. In the room-size installation INVERSION (2019) the artist turns the inside of one of his characteristic blocks of acrylic paint out by greatly enlarging the colour structure and papering the museum wall with it. The result is impressive. Gritsch takes the principle of inversion further, as the work takes on an additional dimension and, due to the enlargement, becomes physically experienceable. At the same time, he creates an intimate proximity to his primary material, acrylic paint.

In Gritsch’s oeuvre of the early 1990s, the exploration of paint as material already took the form which is still relevant today. Ever since, a mass of acrylic paint modelled into new shapes and states serves as the basis for most of his three-dimensional works. In a process characterised by repetition and transfer, the artist works this body of paint, cutting it, dividing it, covering it with new coats of paint and combining it into changing conglomerates in the form of balls, blocks, slabs and other shapes. Rather than a means of representation, colour is the material itself of painting, its own carrier and, as sculpture, autonomous. This approach is directly reflected in the multi-part floor installation STILL NOW (1990/2019) which extends from the interior into the museum’s courtyard.

Aside from acrylic paint-based installations and objects, the exhibition also presents lesser-known groups of works, such as the so-called IMPACTS. For these works on soft laid paper, Gritsch uses clumps of paint shaped into an impact object as a means of painting and hits the paper with it in a deliberate reversal of work and tool. What remains are colourful gestural drawings, marks of the paper’s forceful treatment.

The works of the WAR FLOWERS and CARPETS series are based on maps of various global trouble spots, as presented to us in the daily press. Stefan Gritsch has been collecting such maps for many years. He digitally processes them by overlaying them multiple times and mirroring them to create an ornamental rug pattern or, by giving them an additional rotation, an abstracted flower. The former he has produced on a large scale as carpets, while the flowers are painted on canvas. In the paintings and carpets, the scenes of horrible events appear strangely seductive, thereby questioning the way war and destruction are treated in the media.

The conceptual centre, and thus the head and heart, of the exhibition is a space suggesting a work situation. Gritsch has transferred an intimate environment characterised by intuitive creative processes into the exhibition gallery. The artist himself is present on a regular basis, as drawings, prints, objects and tools pile up on the tables raddled by studio work. They visualise the connections between the works as well as the immediacy and dynamism of Gritsch’s way of working. Over the course of the exhibition, the artist revises the arrangements and combines objects into selected, yet invariably temporary constellations. In doing so, he not only undermines the notion of an exhibition as complete and self-contained, but also highlights – through his interventions – the temporary nature of his work. Gritsch’s pictorial objects often exist just for specific period of time. Once an exhibition ends, they are processed further in the studio: the paint bodies are covered with new paint, broken up into parts and recombined into new conglomerates. For the artist, this temporariness and incompleteness, as well as the underlying exploration of time, offer the “possibility to defer the objective search for the image.”

Born in Bern in 1951, Stefan Gritsch lives and works in Lenzburg.

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