D / E


German Landscape
Jan Schüler – Painting

13 January – 25 February 2023, Opening: 12 January, 6-9 p.m.
Book launch and artist talk with Jochen L. Stöckmann: 16 February at 7 p.m.

In a show titled “German Landscape”, the Galerie Poll in Berlin and the Kunstverein Langenfeld will be exhibiting works by the painter Jan Schüler from 2016 to 2022. To celebrate his sixtieth birthday, an extensive publication with essays by Marita Keilson-Lauritz, Magdalena Kröner, Nana Poll, Jan Schüler, and Gideon Schüler is also in preparation. The volume will be presented during the exhibition in a conversation between journalist Jochen L. Stöckmann and the artist.

While Schüler’s earlier works mainly portrayed friends, acquaintances, and family members or pop idols, for some years now he has been painting motifs from cities and landscapes which are associated with German history and yet also bear traces of his own personal memories and biography – among them, landscapes from his native Hesse and the Rhineland; cities such as Dresden and Frankfurt am Main which figure as centres of German Romanticism; Weimar as the founding site of the first German republic and the city where Goethe and Schiller lived for a time; and Düsseldorf, with its famous academy of art where Schüler once studied.

With “Berlin”, begun in 2017, he has been creating a series depicting historical events such as the collapse of the Third Reich, the division of the former capital by the construction of the Berlin Wall, or scenes of reunification as images that have been imprinted on our collective memory. Subjective influences for his work include personal encounters and biographical references linked to his grandfather and mother, who both studied art in Berlin. Since he first visited the city in 1981, it has remained for him a site of longing.

Of the paintings shown in the exhibition, “View from Hohe Leuchte toward Frauenberg (Father)” from 2019 and “Father (View from Schiffenberg)” from 2017 are two with autobiographical references. In the years before his father’s death, Jan Schüler would frequently visit him for day trips to Marburg, the city where he spent his childhood. Gideon Schüler is buried in a cemetery forest at the foot of the Schiffenberg in Giessen. “Dresden: The Elbe near Pillnitz Palace” from 2022 or “Weimar: View from Goethe’s Residence into the Garden” from 2022 are juxtaposed in the exhibition with pictorial motifs such as “Autumn Evening in Birkenau” from 2017, “German Still Life” from 2016 and “Edek (Treblinka)” from 2019, which were created after Schüler’s visits to concentration camp memorials. Characteristic works from the Berlin series include “Berlin: Evening at the Olympic Stadium” from 2019 and “Berlin: Evening at the Wall” from 2021.

Schüler’s paintings are characterized by his precise craft, which fashions smooth surfaces combined with sharply demarcated forms and areas of colour. In his depictions of people, as in his city views and landscapes, he forgoes details. The elements of these scenes – people, houses, lampposts, fences, trees, or clouds – are depicted not naturally but always as highly stylized. Architectural features and landscapes remain deserted; no birds are seen flying in the sky; no ships ply the rivers. It is only several mounted posters with close-ups of human faces – sometimes smiling, sometimes with a tear in their eye – which suggest the painter’s feelings and memories played a part in these works, notwithstanding their technical perfection.

Viewers are themselves thus left to decide whether they will be drawn into the abysses and shallows behind the perfection of these painted surfaces – or allow themselves to be affected by the beauty of Jan Schüler’s painting. It is this duality, the delicately implied fragility of the paintings’ seemingly unbroken aesthetics, that is the source of their allure.

Jan Schüler, born in 1963 in Gießen, studied at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf from 1985 to 1993 under Rissa and as a master student under Fritz Schwegler. In 1996 he received the Sponsorship Prize for Fine Art from the city of Düsseldorf, where he lives and works to this day. His work can be found in numerous public and private collections throughout Germany and Austria. Together with the Poll Art Foundation, where he has been a member of the advisory board since 2013, Jan Schüler published the first inventory catalogue of paintings and drawings by Maina-Miriam Munsky (1943–1999). In the winter semester 2022/2023, he will hold a visiting professorship at the University of Fine Arts Münster (in the class of Cornelius Völker).