Winterreise: A Group Exhibition Exploring A Poem That Inspired Franz Schubert

Winterreise was a group show inspired by the poem of same name written by Wilhelm Müller which Franz Schubert used for a composition shortly before his death.

On entering the gallery Dermot O’Brien’s Untitled (Winterreise), comprises of 43 drawings evenly spaced along the wall, setting a sense of poetic rhythm for the exhibition. These drawings are objects that relate to the text. We are left only to contemplate them through a particular indexical system that initially gives them a uniformity. On a closer inspection, though, the drawn lines gives evidence of the artist’s hand, which hints at the linguistics of a poem.

Opposite is LEO’s Trouble with People (Winterreise I), and which is part of a series.  LEO uses a twig, gouache, acrylic and pencil on paper. It is inscribed with a title, consecutive number and marked with “personal” troubles. From a distance the twig looks as if it is one piece until it becomes clearer that part of the branch is painted, only making it visually complete through drawing our attention to the places where it is broken. Further on in the gallery space, LEO’s Nest, a small house made of matchsticks, rests precariously on a wooden branch growing out of the gallery walls. Its strikes with the same somber mood of Winterreise and the vicissitudes of changing seasons.

The exhibition explores the poem literally as well as metaphorically and asks viewers to contemplate and reflect. Ian Whittlesea’s painting Stand still. Be quiet, suggests we stop, possibly being asked to, or encouraged to contemplate.  We become parts of a performative act by existing in the space not merely as viewers but participants of contemplation.

These artists use process, material and texture to explore the cycles of Winterreise but rather than get stuck in melancholy, they create a tension of allure and unsettlement. Dan Hays’ blurry landscapes criss-cross and Colorado impression 16d, turn into abstractions with more consideration. They present a visual realm between pixilation and brush strokes suggesting they are not sublime views but views through a “still-frame” or a low-res internet image. The views are intangible and give a sense of loss and shift the concept of time.

Jessica Rayner’s 365 Faces of the sun, sees projected images of the sun interchange at a fast speed, giving a hypnotic cyclical vision of shades and textures. At times the projection bleeds out of the spherical form and gives an uncanny sense of the unknown.

Winterreise as a group show also gives a sense of quietness. As you engage with each work you get drawn into a complexity of processes. These works evoke the presence of the artist’s mind and reminds us about Müller’s poem and Schubert’s cycle of 24 songs as an indispensable work of art, which keeps influencing and being re-interpreted by contemporary artists of all types.

 Words: Roberto Ekholm Image: Dermot O’Brien Photo by Sam Hart © Christina Park Gallery


Dan Hays, LEO, Dermot O’Brien, Jessica Rayner and Ian Whittlesea  23 January – 14 February 2015  Christine Park Gallery, London

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