Frank Fischer
Frank Fischer: Interpretations of Six Swiss Artworks
As a sequel to his successful exhibition of paintings inspired by Ferdinand Hodler, held at Dubinsky Fine Arts, Zurich, in April 2015, London based artist Frank Fischer (b. 1974, Zurich) has chosen to interpret artworks by six famous Swiss artists: Groupe de quatre nus féminins et un nu masculin, 1933, by Le Corbusier; Tornado Tango, 1984, by Martin Disler; Dream City, 1921, by Paul Klee; I'm Not The Girl Who Misses Much, 1986, by Pipilotti Rist; Double Somersault, 1971, by Dieter Roth and Meta Harmonie Super Légère - Aluminium Chassis (Système Sepi), 1989, by Jean Tinguely. In his characteristic drip technique honed over many years, Fischer has distilled each of these iconic artworks into a linear expression, as explored in the following text by Louise Malcolm.
On a sunny day in August, sitting in Frank Fischer’s studio in London and speaking to the artist, one is surrounded by walls covered from floor to ceiling with trickles and drips of gloss paint that has congealed in pools on the floor. One notes that the chaos of the spilt and splashed paint is at odds with the sleek, liner aesthetic of Fischer’s finished paintings. In fact, only in the stalagmites that edge each painting does one see hints of the artist’s unruly painting process. Fischer, who trained at the Chelsea College of Arts in London, uses drips to explore how the element of chance intersects with the process of painting. By repeatedly dripping gloss paint onto a smooth aluminum ground, he relies on gravity to make a straight line of the paint; only when all the drips are straight – and when they accurately reflect his Interpretation of the source painting – is Fischer’s work complete. In this sense, Fischer is a painter’s painter, one who enduringly examines the activity of painting, the nature of his material and the meaning of life as a painter.
Frank Fischer also makes us look with fresh eyes at the works of artists we thought we fully knew. Choosing paintings from the canon of art history, Fischer distills them down to their key visual component of color, presenting the works to us anew. To transform a source painting into his abstract interpretation, Fischer scans a horizontal stripe across the original, capturing every pixel, of which he notes – and then recreates – the precise pantone color. One wonders how much of the spirit of the original is held within Fischer’s linear code interpretation, which he describes as a barcode, or DNA. Viewing Fischer’s work alongside his source material reveals that they are indeed more connected together than one might have initially imagined. In capturing a painting’s colors, although its message is removed, its essence remains: in some of Fischer’s paintings we see harmony, in others turmoil and in yet others energy and movement, all derived from the source painting via its color palette.
Fischer is a process painter. He is not interested in the prose of representation, but in the essence of painting and the intention held within color, captured and distilled down to a pure and immediate linear expression. Thus Fischer’s paintings are not intended to be descriptions of objects or things, but are instead lyrical, sometimes elegiac evocations of the spirit of art.
Frank Fischer was born in Zürich, Switzerland in 1974. He has lived in London since 1996, having studied at the Byam Shaw School of Art (BA/post graduate), then at the Chelsea College of Arts, where he received his Masters Degree in Art. Fischer was honored with the Jerwood Contemporary Painters award in 2007.
Le Corbusier (1887, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Neuchatel – 1965, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France) was a painter and pioneering architect whose seminal “Five Points of Architecture” formulated the modernist aesthetic. His expressionist Groupe de quatre nus féminins et un nu masculin, 1933, drawn in pink and violet ink, pastel and watercolor on paper has been interpreted by Fischer, who was inspired by the softness of the architect’s color palate, which is a marked contrast to the starkness of his buildings.
The wildness and immediate intensity of Martin Disler’s (1949, Seewen, Solothun – 1996, Geneva) brushstrokes in Tornado Tango, 1984, have been harnessed by Fischer and reduced to straight lines that are no less intense. As a young Swiss painter, who made his debut with a personal exhibition at Kunsthalle Basel in 1980, he used the border between abstraction and figuration to make expressive works that hinted at the turmoil within life. This intention comes across clearly in Fischer’s interpretation via the sharply contrasting dark and light shades and the cool and warm colors that comprise the painting.
Paul Klee (1879, Münchenbuchsee, Bern – 1940, Muralto, Ticino) was Switzerland’s master Modernist painter. His abstract style was influenced by Cubism, Expressionism and Surrealism. Klee travelled Tunisia in 1914, where the bright sun awakened his sense of color and tone. From this point on, Klee detached the colors of objects from their shape, and painted things as individual squares of pigment. In a similar mode, Fischer reinterprets Klee’s own distillation of colors in Dream City, 1921.
Pipilotti Rist (b. 1962, Grabs, St. Gallen) is a contemporary video artist whose work has revolutionised the display of art films. She projects her hyper-saturated short films in installations or ‘stage designs’ thereby drawing the viewer into an intense experience of lush colors, changing speed and ethereal sounds. For his interpretation, Fischer selected a still from Rist’s 1986 film I'm Not The Girl Who Misses Much. The film catches Rist dancing alone in an empty white room and singing ‘I’m not the girl who misses much’. Her words are taken from the opening line of the Beatles’ song Happiness is a Warm Gun, 1968, written by John Lennon about Yoko Ono. The song’s opening ‘She’s not a girl who misses much’ recalls for Rist her childhood spent listening to pop music while growing up in her home village of Grabs.
Musician, poet, painter, sculptor, book maker and publisher, collagist, graphic designer and filmmaker, Dieter Roth (1930, Hanover, Germany – 1998, Basel) saw art in every part of life. As a result of his insistence that there was no boundary between the two, Roth’s artworks were often made of the debris of everyday life: clothes, food, sweets, insects, the contents of his studio… For this interpretation, Fischer has selected Double Somersault, a highly expressive lithograph from 1971 that is derived from one of Roth’s table works. For these, the artist would fix paper to the top of a table and leave it to gather the marks of life: coffee spills, doodles, small sketches and handwritten notes. .Fischer’s painting retains the same vivacious spirit.
Jean Tinguely, (1925, Fribourg – 1991, Bern) was perhaps Switzerland’s most famously eccentric artist, part of the Nouveau Réalisme movement. While best known for his mechanical sculptures and kinetic art, Tinguely made highly expressive and colorful preparatory drawings and designs for his three dimensional artworks. Loud, energetic and multi-colored, one of these powerful multimedia works on paper, Meta Harmonie Super Légère – Aluminium Chassis (Système Sepi), 1989, is the source material for Fischer’s equally loud and energetic painting.
Louise Malcolm (b. 1981 Wegberg, DE) is a British art historian studying and working at the University of Zurich.