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Q&A - Matthias Weischer: Traces to Nowhere
Time Out Hong Kong

German painter Matthias Weischer’s Hong Kong debut exhibition Traces to Nowhere opens at Lehmann Maupin Gallery

A prominent figure of the New Leipzig School, Matthias Weischer was trained as a classical painter and later developed his own eclectic style, merging realism with abstraction. He constantly explores new ways of presenting and perceiving 3D spaces on flat canvases – which are not at all flat when viewed in real life. Smothered in thick layers of oils, his textured paintings play with perspective and space, chaos and harmony, reality and fantasy.


These paintings on show are very small, compared to your previous interior series. Why the change in size?
When I’m painting the big ones I’m immersed in them, quite literally. When you look at it, you have to physically move in front of it, quite similar to the way you look at a real space. I find that interesting. But I like to play around with different formats. With the smaller ones the idea is that you have to go closer and look at the details.


 
Do these paintings depict real places?
They are inspired by Roman frescoes, because I like how they treated objects in the space. It’s a feeling somewhat similar to the Chinese and Japanese paintings – the trees, the people, the animals put in the space like a theatre stage.


Can you talk about what happens in your studio?
I have a big group of works hanging on the wall at the same time. They are in one room where I can see them all, which is sometimes very hard. Sometimes it’s good to just bring one to the basement or whatever and don’t look at it for a long time. On the other hand, it’s sometimes good to have them side by side, as you may find something that works for the other painting. For example with these two, I found something in the small one, which I tried to transfer to the big one –so they’re happening to each other.


My works really suffer a lot when I’m painting – I cut them up, I sand them down, I apply layers, I expose the paint. I sand them a lot with the sanding machine. Sometimes I use very dry paint to give a different texture.


Certain objects often appear in your paintings, for example tables. For this show, you’ve painted animals – a leopard’s butt, to be precise.
I don’t see the difference between painting a pot and an animal – I’m trying to play off the associations and ideas that they bring… The objects and their relationships are a way for you to figure out the space and dimension. I’m still testing some models and situations.

 

Your interior paintings seem to have a formula, yet they aren’t formulaic. They’re never boring and you always find new ways to experiment. Do you have something in mind like a cooking recipe when you paint?
I’m putting in all my experience. I think the really important thing is to stay motivated, stay inspired, and to have new ideas. When I change my style, it seems to be more radical to others than to myself – sometimes I get really surprised reactions. But for me they are more fluid. I can see a connection – it still has a lot to do with perspective, and it’s part of a process, which maybe is sometimes hard to follow. I don’t know. I have to keep trying new things, I have to keep going forward. I am always making drawings and collecting images, I must do it to build up my vocabulary.
 
 
Pattern is one of your pictorial devices. Can you talk a bit about this?
Yes of course. There’s a lot of referenced from various cultures. Also, when I’m in nature, I draw a lot. And when you draw a tree, for example, you always find a key – you have to reduce, and the pattern of course is extreme in reproduction. I reflect on my painting after I finish it – I don’t have a very strong concept in mind before I make it. It’s very much about my experience as a painter. The next step is in me, but somehow I can’t really talk about that. I can only talk about it when it’s finished.
 
 
What challenges are you currently trying to overcome?
As you can see, I’ve started incorporating figures. So the next step might be that… but it may take some time! It is difficult for me because of all the inevitable symbolisms attached to the figure. So there’s a desire but also fear… That’s why (for the figures) I leave the space empty. I will try to find a solution, I’m very conscious of it.