I’ve just come back from a very enjoyable evening at Jack House Gallery in Old Portsmouth where it was the preview for German artist Stephan Geisler’s exhibition. I had seen some of his work online and was interested in his use of colour and figures in his largely abstract expressionist paintings and so we went along to see more.
I am so glad we did, there is nothing to compare with seeing a painting that is 2 or 3m square on the wall in front of you, perhaps showing just a head portrait (“Pink Portrait”) 5ft high – seeing a picture online does not have the emotional impact of walking into a room of Stephan’s pictures.
The first thing that struck me, after the sheer size of the pieces (and apparently, these are the small ones!) was the colour. Bold swathes of bright, almost neon colour used sparingly make the paintings vibrant and alive.
The second thing was the powerful wave of emotion and energy coming from the pictures – there were some incredibly strong feelings being portrayed. I was struck by how much emotion can be conveyed merely by the tilt of the head.
Thirdly, I enjoyed looking at each picture and seeing how it was constructed. There were two main genres on display – some of the paintings had elaborate collaged backgrounds using fabrics, images and text. Figures (human and animal) are sketched boldly and then painted sparingly over the top. The second genre had plainer backgrounds and were matte rather than glossed. I liked both, although the latter would be easier on the eye in your living room!
What I loved most was the unfinished nature of most of the pictures. Bare canvas, unpainted parts of the sketch, negative space picked out but not elaborated on. Each picture was painted just the right exent to make the point and then left well alone. I think knowing when to stop requires great bravery!
I asked Stephan about this and he explained how he built up a picture, always questioning when he had enhanced the subject enough and when it was time to leave the background less developed. It was lovely to meet him and be able to discuss the power of painting emotions.
The figures in Stephan’s paintings are often in unusual poses, like the provocative “Red Bridge” or the beautiful “Four Wheels” or “Flying” – the shade of blue in the last two was particularly mesmerising. Our favourite was probably the candid street scene called “Venice” where the main character (the only one painted in entirety) is looking out of the painting right at the viewer in a posture that could be interpreted as confident or challenging. The colours (lime green, blue and white) are particularly vibrant.
The paintings did everything I want from art – they are visually stunning, aesthetically interesting, intriguing and thought provoking and above all filled with powerful emotions. I just wish we had a wall large enough!
This is the first preview evening I have been able to attend at Jack House and I wish I had done so sooner, they have an interesting range of exhibitions and artists there.
The exhibition runs until 28th November. Jack House Gallery is on the High Street, Old Portsmouth.
Jack House Gallery website: www.jackhousegallery.co.uk/index/#/stephan-geisler/ (pictures of all the paintings I’ve mentioned).
Stephans Facebook page: www.facebook.com/stephangeisler.art