Jan-Ole Schiemann: New Paintings is on view in New York through June 3

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Jan-Ole Schiemann: New Paintings is on view in New York through June 3
Photography by Mareike Tocha. Photo Courtesy of Kasmin Gallery.

NEW YORK, NY.- Jan-Ole Schiemann’s second solo exhibition at Kasmin is presenting new paintings and works on paper since this past April, and will continue through June 3, 2023 at the gallery’s flagship location, 509 West 27th Street, New York. Schiemann’s energetic constructions are characterized by boldly abstract figures, vivid cumulous color clouds, and an assertive, instinctive use of shape and line. The artist’s most recent compositions meld fragments and echoes from his former visual vocabulary with new devices that together push the language of gestural abstraction into new territories.

The artist’s complex compositions begin as references drawn from archives of vintage animation and his own meticulous sketches. Using the edge of his rectangular picture plane as the first rule of play, Schiemann begins a game of decision-making, toying with the tension between process and image as he builds layers of charcoal, ink, gesso, and acrylic. In both his drawings and this new series of large-format horizontal paintings, Schiemann’s ongoing interest in the automatist instinct has led to expansive open areas at these edges. In the paintings, these are articulated as unprimed canvas that intersperse sharp fields of color in which the artist’s brushwork creates new dimensions of flux. Tools and materials from the studio, including cardboard sheets and wooden supports, contribute to the application of standardized marks of paint across canvases—an echo of Schiemann’s earlier work with stencils.

On the occasion of Jan-Ole Schiemann's current exhibition at Kasmin, the Cologne-based artist spoke with writer, curator, and artist Ryan Steadman about the formation of a new painterly language for his latest body of work. Read the full conversation on The Kasmin Review.

Ryan Steadman: It’s fascinating to look at this new body of work. Your older works were getting more and more dense and elaborate, and then you just opened them up.

Jan-Ole Schiemann: Like opening a window.

RS: Like suddenly you’re on top of a mountain, with fresh air all around. The older works are more like you’re in a punk club, shoulder to shoulder with all of this crowded energy. Yet there’s still a ton of energy in this series, but this new openness is what really struck me.

JOS: It’s always about energy. I like that imagery of being in a really dense and narrow place, almost like a shoebox that’s filled with gesture and material that gets shaken up. In this body of work, though, I pulled away from the heavy layering. For some time, I preferred the noise, and then I just wanted the opposite—to get away from the digital aspects and the density of the older works.

RS: Was it in reaction to our devices, computers and phones, these screens we spend so much time on?

JOS: When I started to color these fields in the large paintings—when I made the first yellow stripe—I stood in front of it and had a bit of an epiphany. I loved to stand in front of it and not see anything else. The work, in my studio, was suddenly about not doing things to the painting.

RS: It seems to be more about finding gestures and exploring the picture plane.

JOS: Right, and enlarging it in a way. These are 90 x 110 inches.

RS: Were you projecting your images in these new works?

JOS: No, at some point I started working with stencils. Well, this one, Vielgestalt im Zwischenreich (2019) was still derived from drawings and projected backgrounds, but with the Kavex Series [presented at Kasmin in 2019], I started working with stencils and moving away from the process of projecting. Instead, I’d create the shapes on the spot, on the canvas. I’d cut stencils from cardboard, compose the background and then layer the shapes. It’s a mixture of gestural line work and these more graphic lines that have been created with these shapes and stencils. I think that was, then, really interesting for me to have these two different lines of work touching.

RS: It’s so interesting how with a “new series” people don’t always realize that it’s just how the artist feels like working, “I’m sick of doing x and I’d rather do y.” You know, there’s nothing wrong with projecting images, but maybe you just got sick of that process.

JOS: This might be my greatest weakness, or strength, I don’t know, but I really get sick of doing the same thing. I tend to step away from processes that I’d do for quite some time, processes that I really explore, but then I’m done.

RS: You hit a wall.

JOS: Exactly. I hit a wall and then I go in the opposite direction. That’s the greatest thing about painting. For me, painting is about exploring what painting is, and what you can do with paint and these basic things like line work, shapes, and colors. I’m so interested in exploring that, way more so than creating a signature style. With this new work, my style is there and it’s recognizable (at least, this is what I hear from others) but this is not the main focus. It’s really about exploration and playing along with what comes out.

RS: Painting is a lifetime’s process. You’re learning; it’s your whole life. In the new works, was it kind of second nature that you’d keep a certain figurative element, especially in these hands or these cartoonish figures?

JOS: I wanted to reduce things. First, I wanted a two-color setup.

RS: That was my next question!

JOS: The other works have this grayish and transparent tone which refers to drawing a lot. Last year, or maybe the year before, I began to work with colored lines, which I did for quite some time.

JOS: It was a big step. So I started to make colorful lines, it’s as simple as that. That kicked off a lot of questions and totally new horizons for me. In 2020, I had a show in Brussels, in which the works became way more colorful. I got rid of the gray layers. Then, in 2021, I started drawing with color. The setup for this show were these two complimentary colors: red and green. Since I was a teenager that combination has always been my favorite—I think I read somewhere that it was also Van Gogh’s favorite contrast, so I made it mine as well.

RS: I find red and green interesting because the values are so similar. As opposed to yellow and purple, red and green balance each other.

JOS: It’s true, they hold up to one another. They have a similar body...

Continue reading at The Kasmin Review.

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