ROLF WINNEWISSER – Das Druckwerk 1966-2014

Kunsthaus Grenchen, 19. Oktober 2014 – 25. Januar 2015

This exhibition in Grenchen, Switzerland curated by Eva Inversini gathers printed matter the artist produced over the last 50 years. Rolf Winnewisser is one of the most exciting Swiss artists of an older generation. He was born in 1949 in Niedergösgen, canton Solothurn and grew up in Lucerne where he got a degree in then manual graphic design back in 1971. In the following years he lived in different places such as Lucerne, Zurich, Banjul (Gambia), New York, Schongau, Rom, London, Paris and is now based in Ennetbaden near Aarau. After an initial exposure at Documenta V in Kassell (where he was invited by Harald Szeeman and Jean-Christophe Ammann), Winnewisser followed and artist path far from the art market. I assume many of his residencies abroad were connected to state grants or teaching assignments. The mindset of an itinerant type must have influenced the way he worked and conceived artworks. His works were often produced with travel and baggage requirements in mind; a series of paintings have the format that can fit in a suitcase. Winnewisser is a traveller, a silent explorer (more of an inner-worldly kind perhaps), a world citizen, a flaneur and thoughtful observer. As his oeuvre might testify, he perceives the world not as factual, not as a series of precise events, but as an endless stream of images and waves in constant flux. The outside world might trigger and unleash series of images, but it hardly ever enters his work in simple, recognisable ways. Winnewisser’s approach to images and work is more complex, intuitive, gestural, poetic. Images of different kinds can enter his unique image world, but never as predetermined or fixated entities. The image he select for his prints and paintings themselves reflect on the labyrinthine openness and intricacies of image production.

The ‘image itself’ is Rolf Winnewisser’s territory of investigation. He is a Bild-Forscher (image researcher), a Bild-agent (image agent). There is no precise subject matter as such, each work circles around the notion of image and image production. The circling cannot come to a halt, there is no endpoint Winnewisser would be inclined to gravitate towards. Rather, one image might hide another one, give way to a series of interlinked, associative image connections. Winnewisser would not want to entrap images in meaning. His images could be seen as open-ended inquiries on that strange being that is an image and how it travels and shapeshift through space and time. Winnewisser’s work escapes clear and narrow definitions. With each new drawing or print, another investigation into the realm of image begins. 

He works in drawing, paintings, objets, photography, film, texts, prints etc. In 2007 the Kunsthaus Aarau organised the largest Rolf Winnewisser exhibition to date called ‘Alphabet des Bildes’ (alphabet of the image). The catalogue of the Aarau exhibition was structured as an open glossary of the artist’s media, working methods, travels, preoccupations with images. 

A review of the Aarau exhibition (in German) (review of the Aarau exhibition)

Kunstbulletin (a Swiss Art Magazine) interview with Winnewisser (in German)

 Excerpts from the Kunstbulletin interview (translated by the author):

Winnewisser: This always-on-the-way, always-seeking attitude is crucial. One does not find a new island. The island is already there. And the one which one is looking for might not exist. One finds another island. One is preoccupied over a long period of time with a theme, changes are made in the experimental set-up. Tests are made, discarded again, one acts as a researcher or mathematician. In such an analogy, I recognise my position as a painter. One has ideas, prerequisites, one starts a search, experiences are made. One digs deeper into something already familiar, recombines something that is usually constructed differently. One works on material and – in the best case – finds somethings and is being guided into a new direction by the discovery. One dissects concurrences and connects nonsimultaneities. And if all goes well, the problem solves itself and opens up other points of view.

In this vein I see my objects and images which function as tools within a bigger frame that has yet to be defined. There are many wheel-like objects, dices continue to interest me. And if these appear in my images, it is in the form of machine parts that interact and interfere with an image-apparatus and so question the mechanism of the image itself. Ultimately, it is a time machine of seeing.


Hans-Joachim Müller: Is it be a problem for you if the viewer’s associations in front of your pictures would go into a direction you wouldn’t have assumed?

Rolf Winnewisser: No, not a problem at all. I do want to leave the freedom. I don’t want to impose possible image-meanings, nor advocate for a possible handling or reading. There are no prescriptions. I praise the imaginary solution of pataphysicians (note: the concept of ‘Pataphysics’ was coined by French writer Alfred Jarry (1873–1907), who defined ‘pataphysics as ‘the science of imaginary solutions, which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments’). And if there are misunderstandings or if I think there is a misinterpretation, then this is kind of a gift. Communication functions when there are misjudgments of signs. I make the assumption that something happens in the understanding of art that isn’t strictly prescribed. (…) I was never attracted to clearly defined things.

Hans-Joachim Müller: Is painting representing processes of consciousness?

Rolf Winnewisser: A big issue. I can only describe it from experiences and reflections on experiences. Aspects like self-obesrvation are part of it. By all means, while working on images I try to pay attention to all kinds of ‘Bildhaftigkeit’ (image-being/image-states)- There are analytic situations, and others that may resemble dream work.


Rolf Winnewisser: It sprawls and sprawls, I don’t no the formula. The is not end in sight. This is the impetus, to follow intricate paths, detours, to trace incongruous trajectories. And sometimes it happens that one sees more clearly, out of rifts, insights emerge, something opens itself up to whatever side – for example if one is offered an exhibition. It is important that from time to time there is an instance of things being put to test, in order to see and reflect on images or image-apparatuses from a distance.


Hans-Joachim Müller: What do you like to read?

Rolf Winnewisser: It is quite diverse, writings on image theory, then literature. I read different kinds of texts. When it comes to classic literature, authors like Joseph Conrad, Herman Melville, Swift and particularly Lawrence Sterne oder Jean Paul.  Recently I re-read Eichendorffs Life of a Good-For-Nothing. Also I have an interest in artist novels. Cahiers by Paul Valéry. Then contemporary authors like Felix Philipp Ingold oder Bruno Steiger, among many others. Important to me is Oswald Wiener. Other names include: Louis-René des Forêts, Reinhard Priessnitz … Or theoretical texts like: The language of masksThe Discovery of the Mind von Bruno Snell, Grenzen des Sichtbaren (Limits of the visible) by Karlheinz Lüdeking. I just discovered a wonderful poetry book by Steffen Popp, Wie Alpen (Like alps)

The following iphone photos were taken by the author at the Kunsthaus Grenchen in December 2014.

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