“Many times people have told me that they would like to lick my work,” laughs German artist Harald Schmitz-Schmelzer. When one encounters his three-dimensional layering of stacked color and resin, one knows exactly what he means.
The temptation to get close to, and interact with his work from many angles is exactly the interactive process the artist has attempted to achieve. Schmitz-Schmelzer’s “licking” anecdote encapsulates what is unique about his work – its slick approachability – achieved by projecting the medium of painting into a 3-D space and drawing the viewer in by the use of sensual undulating color.
As art critic Regina Boker explains, “The works require an active viewer, a viewer who “conquers” the painting over and over again. Depending on his position he can find himself in front a new painting. In other words, he can always perceive new dimensions”.
Schmitz-Schmelzer explains the genesis of his aesthetic evolution. “When I was studying at the Kunstakademie in the 1970s, at age 20, I became serious about reflecting on my own way of making art, and stopped to mirror visual reality in my paintings. The decision was not accompanied by much appreciation by my fellow students,” he laughs. “Most of them were influenced by the neo-expressive painters who became famous in Germany and all over the world at that time. I always stayed true to myself,” he continues, “and kept working in a non-figurative, self-referential and reductive way”.
The process, which Schmitz-Schmelzer has honed over many years, is actually extremely arduous and conceived from a combination of serious technical concerns.
After experimenting with a variety of techniques in order to achieve the tonality and three-dimensional depth that he desired, Schmitz-Schmelzer’s breakthrough came when he discovered the attraction of layers of resin added to his paint, achieving an almost Asian lacquer finish.
“When I found the right resin that I continue to use today, I was able to cast the lacquer thicker and thicker. I combined it with earlier ideas of the transparent layer and began to hear the “3-D color stripes” comments about my work.
But don’t call Schmitz-Schmelzer works striped. “Actually, there are no stripes in my work at all,” he posits. “Each color is a three dimensional corpus, with a certain chromaticity, with a certain shine, transparency and sedimentation. That means that the weight of the particle of my paint mixtures is different so they affect the presence of each color”.
David De Buck, founder of De Buck Gallery agrees, “What I love about Harald’s work is that there is of course the first and easy comparison to Minimalism – which sought to reduce painting to pure form and color – or to compare it to the striped canvases of painters such as Bridget Riley. Yet what Harald has done is to take a much imitated school of art and transform it for the 21st century in a way that is unique”.
“My scheme of “stripes,” Schmitz-Schelzer explains, “are not flat stripes, but three-dimensional layers of color realized in a process of pouring a pigmented compound into a casting mold. The resulting piece has its own vitality. This is in contrast to stripes painted on a canvas, which can look like soulless digital images made on the computer”.
“The analogy I would use to describe making my work,” the artist says, “would be the process of raising children. Parents always try their best and have a certain idea of what the child will turn out like. Yet even with all of the parental input, the child grows up to be unique — as all children have their own astonishing nature. It is the same with each piece of art that I make. I have an idea of what I would like the piece to be, but when it is complete, it always has dimensions that emerge that I did not anticipate”.