Throughout the career of Swiss artist Urs Fischer, space and form have long worked in lock step with acts of repetition and iteration, allowing his myriad approaches towards studio process to create ever-evolving forms and bodies of work that change as much from piece to piece as they do series to series. For his most recent body of works on view now at Gagosian Gallery‘s uptown location, the artist takes this interest to a natural conclusion, creating a series of panel-based paintings that draw on a gradual evolution in the painter’s improvisations on single images.
In the piece, presented as a single work, installed in successive panels along the walls of a single room, Fischer explores the ways that space can be divided, stretched, opened, and closed—creating a panorama that is as continuous as it is fragmented. His work draws on the work of early seventeenth-century Japanese artist Tawaraya Sōtatsu, using the same techniques towards negative space and light that defined the artist’s work in the Rinpa School of art-making. Drawing on traditional Japanese subjects and spaces, the Rinpa imbued domestic object and architecture with traditional Japanese images and symbols. With Fischer’s work, however, these familiar forms and images are turned towards the modern, and pushed out into the space of the canvas. Rather than allowing negative space to function on the panels themselves, negative space here is applied as a site before the completion of the image.
Throughout the show, the artist’s work draws on previous bodies of work in which he explored and exploded photographs of his studio and other spaces, smearing and twisting the image through additions of paint that turned the work from a documentary photo to a swirling mirage of abstracted space. Turning a similar series techniques towards the Rinpa philosophy, the artist pushes his images out into the space around and beyond his subjects. In one part of the work, the artist depicts a pair of birds floating among the clouds, and then gradually twists the form into the unrecognizable. Splashes and smears of the image through manipulation of the original photo give way to increasingly illegible images, creating an assemblage of words that dwell as much on the original images as the artist’s play outside of the space of familiarity.
For Fischer’s new body of work, his longstanding practices are given the chance to shine, yet equally so, his interest in new schools of thought and practice welcome a twisting reinterpretation of this same series of concepts. For the artist, who has long been fascinated with the existence of objects, with their presence in the world and their impacts on their users, these staid, subdued images provide a chance for reflection and meditation, even as he warps and bends their constitutions well beyond their initial structure.
Sotatsu closes June 23rd.
— D. Creahan