Swiss artist Uwe Wittwer has accumulated an impressive body of work featuring painting, watercolour and Ink-jet prints. Recurrent motifs in his oeuvre are references to Old Masters paintings, still life, interiors and genre scenes. While the works are figurative, Wittwer is more accurately a painter of images; the principal of the pictorial and his very own painterly style unify all three techniques. Throughout his work, Wittwer is concerned with the authenticity and truth of the image, the multiple refractions of reality, and the role of the artist as image hunter and voyeur.
Wittwer’s work is often associated with the field of Appropriation Art, a term which refers to the use of borrowed elements in the creation of new work. Ever since his first large-format watercolours - the ‘Queen’ series (1991) referring to Hans Holbein’s Portrait of Jane Seymour’ - Wittwer time and again turns to works from art history. Artists like de Hooch, Chardin, Hogarth or Poussin could be described as Wittwer’s very personal aesthetic code. This source material is carefully chosen from digital representations - images of images - researched in the depths of the internet. Wittwer’s dominant interest lies in the artistic momentum of filtering, leveling and balancing out the pictorial qualities of the source material. Thus, he isolates details such as a necklace, crinoline, floral elements or a chandelier; enlarging or omitting details, blurring or overlaying motives. Often, the original appears as a mirror or negative image. Common to all his imagery is that the seeming idyll is threatened and on the verge of being overturned, often only hinted at with a single stroke of the brush. A kid’s game turns into a scene of violence, a peaceful house becomes the setting of an unknown tragedy. What results are mysterious works of suggestive beauty and sensuality.
Other works deal with violence, war and death. Wittwer’s source, once again, is the encyclopaedic imagery found on
the internet. Here, chance can guide him. For example, when seeking pictures by Pieter de Hooch, he stumbled across the word ‘hooch’ and found snapshots of American GI’s life in camp during the Vietnam War. Those images, filtered step by step on the computer, reflect upon the difficult process of coming to terms with the past. Whether watercolours or inkjets, the images often have an oppressive, eerie beauty, a dreamlike memory like a still from a blurred black-and-white movie.
Uwe Wittwer (b. 1954) lives and works in Zürich. Recent solo exhibitions include: Haunch of Venison, London, Fred Jahn, Munich, Nolan Judin, Berlin (all 2009), Cohan & Leslie, New York (2008) and Haunch of Venison, Zurich (2007). Recent institutional shows include the Kunst(Zeug)Haus Rapperswill, Zurich (2008), the Kunstmuseum Solothurn and the Ludwig Forum, Aachen (both 2005). Wittwer's work is included in public and institutional collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Bonnefantenmuseum Maastricht, Kunsthaus Zürich; Sammlung Ludwig, Aachen; Kunstmuseum Bern; Kunstmuseum Solothurn; Museum zu Allerheiligen, Schaffhausen; City of Bern; City of Geneva; City of Zürich; Swiss Confederation; Sammlung Bosshard;
UBS Art Collection; Credit Suisse; Caldic Collection.