BY Sally O'Reilly in Reviews | 03 MAR 04
Featured in
Issue 81

Matthias Weischer

BY Sally O'Reilly in Reviews | 03 MAR 04

In Edwin A. Abbot's book Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions (1884) the protagonist, Mr A. Square - a citizen of a two-dimensional world - is visited by a three-dimensional, spherical being. Square does not have the sensory capacity to perceive all three dimensions, but he does have the insight to comprehend the anomaly. In the virtual space of his imagination he pieces together the increasing, then decreasing, circles as they intersect with his plane of existence, to construct the illusion of the sphere. Matthias Weischer describes his paintings as places in which the perceptual and possible meet, as regions of illusory experimentation. Contained spaces - yards, rooms or communicating passages - challenge architectural norms. A patterned wall may give way to an unexpected portion of an interior, immediately understood as truncated or spilling beyond its boundaries.

Time also plays a role in his fictions. In the essay 'The Journey Pretending to Be' (2003) Weischer declares his awareness of the implications of Einstein's general theory of relativity: 'Time is converted into space, with vision building the visual space during the course of time.' The act of looking becomes an implicit part of the fabrication of imagery; our stitching together of Weischer's composite fragments is like the final visual utterance in the chain of command.

Weischer tends towards a somewhat theatrical presentation of interior and pictorial space. He shows us a room as if we were seated square-on in the auditorium and we become the classic fourth wall. He is almost as comfortable with this spatial scheme as the Dutch painter René Daniels, whose three-walled rooms recur as floating bow-tie motifs. Weischer does, however, fill his rooms with enough ballast - patterning, furniture and ornaments - to anchor them in an albeit spooked physical reality. Yard (all works 2003) is the dumping ground for a framed photographic portrait, some unidentified fabric and unnaturalized geometric forms - an impossible scaffolding structure of white bars, a solid pink wedge and some painterly monochromatic rainbows. This yard is like an inner-city meeting place for a multicultural array of visual languages.

The objects and décor within the paintings are suffused with the aura of epochs past and present, as if, by travelling into the picture plane, they have accrued the cultural equivalent of air miles. A stocky wicker chair throws a shadow across a purple floor in an offhand manner (one of the legs casts no shadow at all), while a half-glimpsed woman in a picture on the wall behind stands arms akimbo with historical authority. These objects are historicized archetypes, knowingly chosen for their radiation of ambiguity. Similarly, in Dice the connotations of a pair of dice on a covered pool table are at once unsettling and comforting, a classic case of the unheimlich.

The textural schizophrenia of Weischer's paintings compounds his collage-like approach to imagery. Sections of board intersect, sometimes not quite flush with one another. At times the painted imagery will carry across the join, at others the join will be accentuated by a change in illusory plane, with the introduction of an interrupting wall or obscuring screen. We are often held away from the pictorial nub of the painting, condemned to the purgatory of surface; yet sometimes we are rewarded with a sighting of the central character, the all too often absent instigator of these fictional environments. In Invented Man, for instance, the none too welcoming room is dotted with clues as to its inhabitant's lifestyle: a portable television, indecipherable objects on a high shelf, vague accoutrements of lunch and askance views of geometric imagery pinned loosely to wall. This by no means prepares us for the oddity that sits in front of the television - a composite humanoid silhouette made up of a painted medalla (positioned at the lower back, just like in painkiller advertisements) and a head that is part wood-effect, part framed picture. The figure shimmers in and out of existences, from illusion to allusion, so that we have a lot of assembly work left to do.

Weischer's paintings are the result of over-painting, rewrites and Frankensteinian construction, conveying the caprices and judgements that this way of working must absorb - repetition and novelty, drips and masking tape, the overt and the cryptic. It's as if they're a mapping of Weischer's thoughts on painting itself, while their physical anomalies (impossible shadows, unrealistic architecture and thwarted narrative) are signposts for perception's instability.

Sally O'Reilly is a writer, critic, teacher and editor.