Martin Schnur, born in 1964 in Vorau, Styria, lives and works in Vienna. He is considered a mainstay among Austrian artists in the field of figurative painting.
Schnur consistently focuses on questions of what figurative painting can do in contemporary art, as well as investigating which parameters inherent in the medium (such as light, shadow, and space) are still valid today. His art has attained an unmistakable thumbprint, and he is constantly developing new image concepts. But even if there’s a consistent narrative element throughout his work, this artist is by no means concerned with sheer mimetic representation. Instead, Martin Schnur generates new realities through autonomous color fields, spaces of light, and the inherent materiality of the paint itself. There is always something puzzling about his pictures. He doesn’t want to represent the world or explain it. Rather, his mind dwells where the various shades of reality become visible.
The locations shown in his paintings cannot be determined in the sense of concrete documentation. Still, he feels that they reflect something of Vienna and its surroundings: he translates moods such as melancholy, quiet loneliness, or the sometimes uncanny nature of the forest thicket and abandoned houses into pictures. Themes such as the reflection and refraction of light have always appeared in his paintings. They enable a dialogue between the interior and exterior and between landscapes, figures, and abstract color fields.
The settings of these paintings are deliberately staged by the artist himself. He lets the protagonists play their parts in the rooms of teardown houses and abandoned apartments, setting them in water-based paints or on reflective surfaces. They do not communicate with the viewer, and there is no eye contact. But why? They aren’t portraits, after all. It’s not about a masterful rendering of the figures themselves. Martin Schnur is well equipped to deal with such topics. He uses shortening and positioning techniques on bodies with great confidence. More than anything, these figures are extras and role-players in scenes invented by the artist. His characters are self-contained, seeming to show a moment of privacy, yet they don’t actually reveal anything about themselves.