Distorted Face II, Oil on canvas, 80 x 70 cm, 2009

Cheap & Plastique interviews Zurich-based painter Andy Denzler for Issue 9.

C & P: You just showed your work at the Claire Oliver Gallery in Chelsea, NYC. Could you speak a bit about the title of the show, Dissonance and Contemplation?
Andy: The title is meant to be non-literal but perhaps it hints to the vague feeling of all is not what it seems, or maybe the timorous acceptance of one`s fate, or the idea of my paintings surviving me.

C & P: Did you make it to NYC to see the show? Was the show well received? Was this your first show in NYC?
Andy: A solo show in Chelsea is usually an important marker for an artist so yes I attended the opening. Dissonance and Contemplation was my second solo show in NYC and my first with Claire Oliver Gallery.

Edge of Desire, Oil on canvas, 150 x 150 cm, 2009

C & P: There seems to be a shift in the imagery in your painting over time from predominantly black and white portraiture to more colorful, monumentally-scaled environments with multiple figures and elements. Can you talk about this progression?
Andy: I go back and forth between multiple figures and single portraits. Right now I am exploring monumental interiors that contain unfamiliar element—interiors with more readable three-dimensional spaces that require me to slow down my process to organize the narrative between props, animals and figures.

Nico, Oil on canvas, 80 x 100 cm, 2006

C & P: Your recent work is large-scale. Do you find you prefer working in this large expansive format to your earlier more scaled-down work?
Andy: Working on the larger pieces slows down the process. I also have a series of small sacral relic paintings that are preciously framed under glass. I have no preference for size, format should not be a parameter for content or quality.

C & P: In your newest paintings, such as Watchdog, the interior space, where strange activities are taking place, resemble the interiors of abandoned warehouses. Are these real/actual spaces that you are painting, are they abandoned spaces which you have explored?
Andy: They are real spaces that one could visit. I compose and install the selected figures, props, elements in my studies.

C & P: What interests you about this type of space and the graffiti that one regularly encounters in spaces like these? Does the graffiti that you paint onto the walls of these spaces in these paintings have any meaning?
Andy: The caveman with his torch, burnt stick, animal blood, pigments was saying “I was here!” Same for today`s graffiti artist. There is something aesthetically pleasing about graffiti in 20th century ruins. Something apocalyptic yet strangely beautiful.

Watchdog, Oil on canvas, 300 x 200 cm, 2011

C & P: The figures in your recent work, such as The Deer, the Sheep & the Three Companions or Hypnotized, seem to be wholly engaged in their own private activities and almost completely unaware of one another. Are the individuals in the paintings meant to be perceived as having been dropped into these environments and functioning independently of each other or are they part of a larger narrative within the work? Also, could you talk about the somewhat strange inclusion of animals in these works? They don’t quite make sense in the space but they also don’t seem completely out of place.
Andy: My figures are like addicts in rehab. They are removed from their computerized worlds and seem to be at odds with the world around them. The environment they find themselves in suggests a mental version of the rust-belt era—only it is the digital world that has now broken down. The decomposition of human interaction: the post-social network disconnect that I believe is before us if not already begun. The animal is meant as a prop for use as allegory—open to the viewer to for interpretation.

Hypnotized, Oil on canvas, 200 x 300 cm (2 parts), 2011

C & P: Can you talk a bit about the recurring mode of abstraction in the works; the horizontal bands of distortion? It calls to mind images of a television struggling to find its signal. Is this repeated technique meant to be evocative of a particular undercurrent in your work, or a particular feeling you’re hoping to convey?
Andy: It could be a painted version of the cosmic microwave background radiation that we commonly know as “static” on the signal-less television. At the same time these fragments accrue like a paused VHS tape.

As If Nature Talked Back To Me, Oil on canvas, 200 x 300 cm (2 parts), 2011

C & P: Your work recalls Gerhard Richter’s photo-based paintings (such as Matrosen (Sailors) from 1966, Herr Heyde from 1965 or the Baader-Meinhof sequence) in which he dragged a squeegee across his canvases to add an element of abstraction reminiscent of the blurred and distorted quality of visual memory. Do you base your paintings, or elements of them, on photographic sources? Are you influenced by or referencing Richter’s work or techniques?
Andy: Richter`s Scheune, 1983, looks to be influenced by Edward Hopper. Duchamp`s Nude Descending a Staircase obviously directly inspired Ema Nakt, 1966. The point is that sooner or later you will find cross pollination between artists. Richter`s vast oeuvre reveals how wide his influence on the contemporary art world really is. The above mentioned work by Richter is a carefully rendered photographic effect. I am more interested in a very risky painting process of motion and distortion, less photographic, more cinematic. My intension is it to reveal a topographic surface of valleys, fissures, craters, divots and explosions in oil that up close, return to the non-figurative. The paint handling in my work is difficult to read in a small jpeg format and does not reveal the material (or amount of material) that I use to reanimate the destroyed under-painting.

C & P: If you work is not photography/film based, how do you come up with your subject matter?
Andy: I conceptualize my works through the use of my own multimedia source material and my own studies.

Jam Session I, Oil on canvas, 200 x 300 cm, 2011

C & P: Can you talk about the varying roles of nature and architecture both throughout your work and as concurrent forces within some of the most recent works?
Andy: In my own life I was thinking about the rural and urban environment, were I want to live. Both nature and the man-made serve as equal opportunity staging for my subjects. I will work on a series of figures in specific environments till I have reached a point of saturation—its like considering a group of paintings as one piece and knowing when to put the brush down. I do also invent “psycho-landscapes” when nature does not work as a setting.

C & P: You have painted quite a few images of people rowing in canoes on lakes/bodies of water (Transition II & Transition III, Silver Lake I, White Lake # 1897, Rower I)… could you talk a bit about this subject matter and why it is recurring subject in your artworks?
Andy: The “transition” paintings refer to the afterlife, the crossing of the river Styx into the next dimension. I believe the canoe/boat is used in several different cultures as a vessel to the next plane.

Transition III, Oil on canvas, 180 x 150 cm, 2010

Rower I, 2009, Oil on canvas, 100 x 150 cm

C & P: Are you influenced by the work of any filmmakers or photographers?
Andy: Roy Andersson, Federico Fellini and Pier Paolo Pasolini are influential film makers to me. And in photography Robert Capa and Miroslav Tichy.

C & P: What painters are you looking at? Past? Present?
Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Titian and Velasquez are a few of my favorite painters.

C & P: What projects are you currently working on?
Andy: I am preparing for a solo show next year during the Biennale at the Gwangju Art Museum in South Korea.

Model in the Studio, Oil on canvas, 140 x 120 cm, 2011

C & P: I have always been interested in how artists function/survive in different cities throughout the world. What is it like to be an artist in Zurich? Do you feel that you have a lot of opportunities there? From reading about you on the web it seems that you have lived in many places, LA, London, etc…, is there something special about Zurich that makes you want to stay & make art there?
Andy: Zurich is a very pleasant place to live—if one is at least able to travel in their mind. The clockwork infrastructure and busy ant-like work ethic occasionally leaves the artist with the need to experience other realities. There lacks a roughness here, a physical rawness and joie de vivre that one is confronted with in places like New York. That said, I am fortunate to be able to travel for the collecting of characters, landscapes and ideas for source material that I bring back to work in my studio.

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