Hauser & Wirth Zürich presents a solo exhibition of new and recent works by Wilhelm Sasnal, the pre-eminent painter and film-maker known for his incongruous and quietly unsettling portrayal of our collective surroundings and history. The exhibition will showcase a large number of new works informed by his recent travels to America’s southern states, and the events and crises currently dominating world affairs. Extracts from the artist’s latest feature length film, which is inspired by Albert Camus’s novel ‘The Stranger’ (1942), form the axis of the presentation.
There is a persistent preoccupation in Sasnal’s work to stay engaged with the world we live in, and perhaps more importantly, to connect the present with the past. At once curiously personal and coolly detached, Sasnal subjectively and intimately interprets the topical.
Drawing on found images from newspapers and magazines, the Internet, billboards or his personal surroundings, Sasnal’s paintings act as an archive to the mass of sprawling images that flood contemporary society. In applying a concise, photorealist approach to this eclectic subject matter, he captures stolen moments in time – his unusual cropping and graphic approach to light and colour suggest a camera’s gaze, imbuing the canvases with a filmic quality. In Sasnal’s latest series of paintings, issues relating to race, religion and the notion of ‘other’, surface. Motifs such as birds, cowboy boots and corporate logos invite the viewer to make associations with the current political climate, but, as in his films, the paintings navigate between figuration and abstraction, eschewing a definitive narrative or agenda. The power of Sasnal’s painting lies in this sense of distance created between the viewer and underlying story. Through abstraction or empty space, he generates a disquieting absence of emotional engagement.