Evil Realism

Realism has frequently been labelled the ‘villain’ of the art industry. All those accounts of twentieth-century art describing its development as liberating the work from the impositions of figurativism, symbolism, the message, representation, etc., can only interpret realism as a hindrance and diversion along the path leading art to its true self. Yet by the 1960s at the very latest, with the advent of Pop Art, a vehemently figurative movement which positively celebrated the banality of depiction, this account of modernism ‘from realism to the pure work of art’ could not continue to be told without becoming entangled in contradictions. The distinction between abstract and figurative no longer plays a meaningful role for most players, whether artists, critics, curators, gallerists, collectors or art fans – at least not for those who largely determine the rules the market abides by. There is no doubt, however, that Marina Schulze’s art would not be possible without the extended debate on the form contemporary modernism should take. Her pictures are frequently so large that it becomes difficult for the viewer to retain an overview, rendering her painting to some extent abstract. At the same time her works display an astonishing photorealism. In retrospect these debates seem to have been fought with almost religious intensity, something which is little more than an echo in Marina Schulze’s oeuvre. The energy of these now distant struggles is clearly stored in more refined areas, for Marina Schulze’s realism has itself become relatively ‘evil’. Infinitely far removed from this, in a sanctuary for a still beautiful reality, her pictures cast somewhat Medusa-esque looks at us. Schulze, like Medusa, increasingly makes her own body the focus of these cold stares. Both horrified and yet unable to avert our eyes, we are gripped by our desire to see. How do we begin to covet? By seeing! That was one of Hannibal Lecter’s lessons in the film The Silence of the Lambs. You have to feel if you want to see.

Dr. Daniel Spanke

Translation: Nicola Morris