Swiss artist Alfons Schilling dies at the age of 79

Alfons Schilling, c. Marina Richter
Alfons Schilling at the ESSL Museum in 2010, © Marina Richter

The Swiss artist Alfons Schilling (20. May 1934, Basel – 19. June 2013, Vienna) died last night after a long illness. The father of “total painting” as he called his Spin paintings and the man who, together with Günther Brus, set a spark for Vienna Actionism, remains one of the most original artists of the 20th century. His work can not be categorized as belonging to any particular movement per definition and his thurst for new expressions has always guided him in interesting directions, opening new possibilities of artistic expression. He experimented with holograms and lenticular photography, he invented and personally manifactured “Viewing machines” which transformed the reality into a, optically speaking, parallel world. This unusual apparatus was followed by the “virtual reality video helmet” which Schilling described in his manifesto published in 1973, but couldn’t fully realise the project due to a lack of advanced equipment.

To quote Günther Oberhollenzer who curated the Alfons Schilling retrospective at the ESSL Museum in 2010: “Whether through spin paintings or auto-binary stereoscopic images, viewing machines, electronic cameras or apparatus-free three-dimensional perception through holograms and lenticular photographs – Schilling has explored the visual arts and their notion of an imagefar beyond traditional ideas. His work challenged and enhanced our visual perception.”