My main artistic medium is figurative painting. I am interested in the ways in which daily visual information, mainly in the form of photography and film stills, influences one’s perception. For me oil painting creates a powerful counterpoint to the inflationary use of images, achieved through slowness and tradition. Due to its decelerating characteristics it allows me to reflect and to view things afresh. My artworks, which are often characterized by dark and sinister imagery, touch upon conflicts that are a product of basic human interaction.

I am influenced and triggered by what Guy Debord defined as The Spectacle: sub and pop-cultural imprints, images of menacing visible manifestations of human crises and abysses and as well as the subtext of aestheticization. I argue that the state of a crisis holds emancipatory and progressive potential. Despair and abomination are in direct stress-ratio with the potential of improvement.

Moved by war photographs and imagery of current global events but also by social-psychological crisis I paint mainly human characters. I insert my figures into collage-like, non-spatial and often grotesque or disaster-struck landscapes. By decontextualising the figures from their immediate surroundings, I ask the viewer to decipher the relationships between my figures and to notice the often-unseen betweenness, Das Dazwischen¹ that is created. The figures cover their faces with their hands in grief, but also as if to avoid the voyeuristic gaze of the viewer, who is coerced to participate together with the artist in the act of finding beauty and inspiration in a catastrophe. Faceless, my figures challenge the viewer’s ability to pause and wonder. The oil paintings show a tension between objectivity and abstraction, between detailed craftsmanship and coarse, fast application of paint, between sinister scenes and dazzling colours. I have no didactic ambitions, but rather wish to illuminate the previously described contradictory potential as the best possible outcome of adversity.

Emmanuelle Wilhelm