Roland Schimmel: Subliminal Reset, Witzenhausen Gallery, New York, NY



March 26 – April 25, 2009

Over the last two decades, Dutch artist Roland Schimmel (*1954) has produced a compelling oeuvre of abstract paintings to which digital animations have been added more recently (these films are “illustrated” by music of composer David Lopato). What the works have in common is the exploration of sensorial frontiers. the paintings and animations depict optical structures or fields, in which the soft contours of shimmering haloes and hard edges of black holes pop up and meet. Observing the encounter of these contrasting forms evokes physical sensations of expansion and contraction reminiscent of op art’s push and pull effects. Roland Schimmel’s art however is finer as well as harder in what it is, and obtains: acts of looking and projecting.

The backdrop of Roland Schimmel’s work is a blend of a taoistic life-view, central to which is the concept of equilibrium between the individual and their surroundings, and a deep interest in neuro-physiology, in particular the cooperation of the eye and the brain. in his paintings of twenty years ago, after-images were the dominant agents. Simple figures painted on a ground in complementary colors triggered retinal images which the viewer, as it were, projected back onto the painterly surface. Thus the work was completed by involuntary physical acts. After-images also play a key role in the selection of works from the last ten years that are on show in this exhibition. But now a doubling occurs: on the paintings, (parts of) the retinal images that are triggered by the encounter of oscillating and straight forms are painted as well. The viewer encounters a retinal fantasma. Observing these works leads to sensorial disorientation followed by cleaning of the senses. Now the viewer can surrender to what the work actually embodies: an infinite sensorial realm, an oceanic experience.

In 20th Century abstract art this ideal scenario, with a viewer becoming one with an artwork or better disappearing in it, can possibly for the first time be seen in Barnett Newman’s paintings. the predecessors of roland schimmel’s work however appear in “de-personalized mechanic” artforms, and in particular those artform.