The Videopainter Felix Gmelin
Felix Gmelin, a veteran-boyish artist and a persistent auditor of the attitudes of the 60s, has recently exhibited new work at the 4th Berlin Biennial. In the piece Sound and Vision (2005) – a two channel video installation – his severe love-hate relationship with this mystified decade comes into play. The work features archive footage of the artist as a young man, as well as an eerie instruction video showing blind kids learning about sex, by feeling up the privates of a couple of naked youngsters. However in Sweden Gmelin is known not as a video artist, but first and foremost as a successful painter, which has been his trademark since the late 80s when he graduated from Sweden’s Royal Academy of Art, at the time, the country’s last temple of painterly modernism.
Gmelin is now working in these two, initially incompatible fields and as a result proposes a new breed of the contemporary artist – the video-painter. There are historically very few conduits linking the genres of video and painting, but in Gmelin’s oeuvre both complex traditions are merged. While the artist states that he considers working with these mediums as ‘two distinctly different practices’, largely showing them as separate projects, he also argues that ‘on the other hand, if you take a closer look, they are quite intimately tied together since all the works reflect documentary material in one way or another.’ But Gmelin was one of the first artists that successfully remixed them, during the early years of what in retrospect was the beginning of the post-production movement in contemporary art. In The five most ugly faces in the National Gallery (1999), he morphs five paintings from the National Museum in Sweden, creating what he terms as a ‘Brigitte Bardot out of monsters’. What he actually does here is fuse the spirit of the two mediums together forcing the viewer to find new ways of looking; The five unattractive portraits are swiftly...
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