The elusive imagery in Andy Denzler’s paintings is not so much the product of what is there, but what is not there. The Swiss artist has developed a signature technique that injects his paintings with an instant subtext, a now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t narrative.
“I am not interested in painting pretty pictures. I try to create a certain mood or ambience. It has a lot to do with colour and lighting. It should look dark rather than nice,” says Denzler. Hence men and women who appear pinned to the wall by an unseen centrifugal force; women sitting uneasily on the edges of chairs or on unmade beds; a man and a woman in a decomposing villa.
Denzler, who started out as an abstract painter, uses a Leica camera to take enigmatic pictures of men, women and men and women, in uncertain surroundings. The camera records crisp images, in the smooth, creamy, naturalistic palette that the artist favours.
But unlike many contemporary painters, Denzler doesn’t reproduce the photographic image onto a canvas to create a template for his work. Instead, he paints freehand, using the photograph as a reference, and building up layer upon layer of wet paint. Then, when he has a “perfect painting”, he deconstructs it, leaving in its wake traces of what was.
The vestigial image, boldly striped with horizontal scrapes made by a spatula dragged across the canvas, has the effect of a video that has been permanently put on pause, giving the viewer a sense that something came before, and something will come after. But what remains in the present is a single transient, but captive, moment.
“I bring time and motion into the imagery, by using both time and motion. It’s an alla prima technique, painting wet-on-wet; I control the speed of the painting process, because there is a limited amount of time before the canvas dries,” Denzler explains. “It’s a very radical process.”
Fragmented Identity will go on show at Opera Gallery in Monaco from 23 June until 8 July.