Gregor Schmoll (b. 1970), the “Monsieur Surrealist” of contemporary Austrian art, studied under Michelangelo Pistoletto and Heimo Zobernig at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts.
In his art work, he combines photography and sculpture into elaborate installations which always are manifestations of his continuing effort to blur the boundaries between reality and imagination by placing apparently everyday things in new absurd or surreal contexts.
Schmoll’s work is based on the conviction that perception is always informed by socio-cultural context. Accordingly, the artist draws on the reservoir of the cultural visual memory. It is often canonized imagery from art history that he uses as a starting point for his poetic and ironical reflections. His Polaroid series, “From the Private Collection,” is brings together a number of quotations from art and photographic history that are relocated into everyday situations. Motifs from works by Max Klinger or Rudolf Schwarzkogler undergo similar alienation in the “Evidence of Dreams” series, being presented in the guise of photographic records of medical test arrangements.
With this dream-vision-like distortion of the collective image repertoire, Schmoll is able to establish systems of references between different fields of knowledge from psychology to literature. At the same time, he points to the fact that our everyday mode of perception is always prestructured by pictures from the collective visual memory, whose contents he reveals to be not only conveyers of specific patterns of values and thought, but also the basis of existing constructions of reality.
His critical questioning of reality does not stop at the self-image, or the artist image, for that matter: if Schmoll stylizes himself into Pygmalion or Fantômas in his series “My Life as Monsieur Surrealist” or uses a mirrored grimacing self-portrait in profile to define the outline of a porcelain vase, he does in fact explore the question of how culturally passed-down images influence self-perception and inform identity.
Presenting all central bodies of work from the past ten years, the exhibition of Schmoll at the Kunsthalle Krems is the most comprehensive solo show of the artist in Austria to date. It reveals that his art is “a tissue of quotations from innumerable centres of culture” which “enter into mutual relations of dialogue, parody, contestation” (Roland Barthes). In the synopsis, his works combine into a consistent orbis pictus, a visual cosmos that subverts the accustomed perception of, and open up new approaches to, reality.
Curator: Stephanie Damianitsch