Neo Rauch, Schmerz, 2004
“Schmerz” is an oil on canvas painting created in 2004 by Neo Rauch (“Schmerz – Neo Rauch – The Athenaeum”). Rauch quickly became one of the key painters in figurative German art, with most of his work fitting into the contemporary arts movement, though a lot of his works have suggestions of surrealist style (“A Conversation with Neo Rauch | Ocula”).
“Schmerz” has a triangular composition and is composed of various subjects preforming various tasks. In the foreground a general with a drawn sword leans over a woman crouched on the ground appearing to tend to a vase resting on a wood base with a curling entity emerging from the top. In the background, there are more woman walking toward a group of soldiers who are walking in their direction. Fading into the distance behind this is a line of houses and greenery you would typically see in a quiet village or in the country side. The combination of these figures creates a nearly dreamlike feel to the piece. Overall the colours in “Schmerz” are quite dull with bright yellows and reds used on and around the woman to draw the attention of the viewer in that direction. In my opinion the use of the yellow for the woman and the blue for the men in uniform helps to create the distinction between an idea that is ridged and regulated and people who are supposedly ‘free’. Rauch typically is known for using strong contemporary colours throughout his works. (“Neo Rauch Biography”). The scale of the work is one that is played with freely. Rauch makes things much bigger or smaller than they would be and places these items in places where they do not quite work with a conventional scale. This method adds to the surrealist abstraction element of his work. This work, along with many others of Rauch’s work plays with the idea of narrative. (“Neo Rauch at David Zwirner Gallery, London — Interview”). Looking at this work the viewer has the impression of a clear narrative. However, on further inspection the painting is composed of many familiar images in a jumbled and non-distinctive manner, that create nearly a collaged and perhaps surrealist style of art. Rauch’s work is mainly considered to be heavily in the style of East Germany art with small inputs of Western style. This is mainly because of the similarities between his work and the socialist realism work that was previously the only approved style in that area of Germany. (“Paintings for Now”)
I chose this work to study because it is not a piece of art that appeals to me. I admire the skill with which Rauch handles his medium, and it was not something I was particularly aware of until I started to study the piece. His paint handling in many of his works holds a lot of skill and is very impressive. However, I find the colours in the piece a strange mix between dull and garish and the collaged effect of all the different images creates more of a jumble to me than a refined figurative art piece. After researching this piece, I understand why Rauch is one of the biggest figurative painters in Germany. In my opinion it is an art piece that is not to my taste. I feel as though the emotions “Schmerz” delivers are sad and angry and dull and I often find art that conveys those emotions unappealing. I also feel as though the objects in the image do not mix and where never intended to be put together, while I can see why this would appeal to people as a style, for me it conveys more of a misplaced sense and one that is not meant to be there.
Overall I find “Schmerz” to be something that I as a viewer do not quite understand and is a piece of art that does not appeal to me in many ways. However, I do also acknowledge the style where he gets his influence from and think Rauch uses an interesting mix of realism and abstract surrealism to create his works.
“A Conversation with Neo Rauch | Ocula.” N.p., 14 May 2017. Web. 20 May 2017.
“BOMB Magazine — Neo Rauch by Sabine Russ.” N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2017.
“Neo Rauch | Contemporary Art | Hatje Cantz.” N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2017.
“Neo Rauch – Magazine – Art in America.” N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2017.
“Neo Rauch at David Zwirner Gallery, London — Interview.” Financial Times. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2017.
“Neo Rauch Biography.” David Zwirner. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2017.
“Paintings for Now.” The New Yorker. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2017.
Piepenbring, Dan. “The Paris Review.” “At the Well”: Four Paintings by Neo Rauch. N.p., 11 June 2014. Web. 20 May 2017.
“Schmerz – Neo Rauch – The Athenaeum.” N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2017.
“This New Documentary Gets Inside the Mind of Neo Rauch.” artnet News. N.p., 5 Jan. 2017. Web. 20 May 2017.