Gilles Rotzetter - With A Necessary Dose Of Irony

Gilles Rotzetter in his Landis & Gyr's studio space in Zug. photo: Cat Tuong Nguyen

Gilles Rotzetter in his Landis & Gyr's studio space in Zug. photo: Cat Tuong Nguyen

Artists in Residence

The Landis & Gyr Foundation (founded in 1971) offers studios to artists and writers from the Italian and French parts of Switzerland. Landis & Gyr originally awarded residencies only within Switzerland, but it now has a wider European profile. There has been an artist-in-residence programme in London since 1987, and in Berlin, Budapest, Bucharest and Zug since 2000. The Berlin residency will close in the middle of 2013. Gilles Rotzetter (born 1978) is currently working in the studio in Zug.

Gilles Rotzetter - With A Necessary Dose Of Irony

<b>von Burg:</b> Gilles Rotzetter, last year you stayed in the Swiss Institute in Rome. Could you tell me why you, as an artist from the west of Switzerland, have chosen Zug as a place to do a residency?

<b>Rotzetter:</b> In the Swiss Institute I met a lot of students from the German part of Switzerland, and there was a lively exchange of ideas. In general I've noticed that my work is much better received in the German part of Switzerland than in the French.

<b>von Burg:</b> In what ways?

<b>Rotzetter:</b> The mainstream rules in the French-speaking part. By mainstream I mean geometric abstract art and graphic design, as well as painting with optical effects related to graphic design, advertising, lounge aesthetics and architecture, as in the style of Philippe Decrauzat or in the dynamically constructed installation-based pictorial language of Karim Noureldin. I have the impression that there is little space for anything else. Of course there is Mamco, the positions of John Armleder, and of the French artists. But these don't exactly correspond with my artistic approach, which is to connect natural idylls, Wild West scenarios or fantasy worlds with common myths and references to pop songs, to literature or to world history. In the end I think this art scene is a bit totalitarian. I studied at the School of Fine Art in Geneva under Peter Roesch, and there was a very different, open atmosphere. Roesch, with his independent position as an artist, received recognition very early on. He blew apart the classical conception of what a painting should be and used blacks, whites and strong colours provocatively. The positions of Swiss German, and also German painters, correspond more to mine, especially if I think of the free painting of Georg Baselitz or Philip Guston.

<b>von Burg:</b> Can you describe to me how the working conditions in Zug are different to those in Rome?

<b>Rotzetter:</b> I've found conditions wonderful here. All the studios I had before were terrible because of the chaotic state of them. But I like it here a lot, because the studio and the apartment are very close to each other. The rooms are part of a former monastery and are at the foot of Zug's mountain. It's an idyllic, calm and contemplative place. At the same time you're very close to Zürich and Lucerne. In contrast to this, in Rome, I never had a quiet moment and my art work suffered as a result.

<b>von Burg:</b> Quite an extreme difference! Have you in any way been inspired by your stay in Zug?

<b>Rotzetter:</b> For a while I've been occupied with the same topic. Nevertheless, I notice that under the influence of this calmness, in the midst of this unique landscape with beautiful trees, that my language and expression are less fierce and impetuous, that all this has calmed me down.

<b>von Burg:</b> Are you exchanging ideas with the other residents, the writers and musicians?

<b>Rotzetter:</b> Not especially. This is in contrast to Rome where we exchanged ideas intensively. Sure, you bump into people and speak to each other. But here I'm confronted with a different philosophy.

<b>von Burg:</b> Now the next thing is an exhibition at the Allerheiligen Museum in Schaffhausen, which is in some respects the result of your stay in Zug?

<b>Rotzetter:</b> The curator at the Allerheiligen Museum, Marc Munter, had already been in touch with me during my stay in Rome and suggested the possibility of an exhibition. In Rome the prospective of a Landis & Gyr residency seemed like destiny, so that I could prepare the exhibition in peace and quiet. My work broaches the issue of the opposition of nature to technology, social injustice, the absurdity of the continual presence of wars, as well as the futility of human existence. The extreme gestural style corresponds with these loaded themes.

<b>von Burg:</b> In your choice of colours you seem to be indebted to the ideas of Peter Roesch.

<b>Rotzetter:</b> Yes, absolutely. The intensive, dynamic, strong colours were chosen to mirror the absurd scenes; as well as to create perspective, rhythm, movement and energy fields, as with late Medieval painters.
Here we often encounter strange scenes: a prostitute in a wheel-chair, which is on top of a plinth surrounded by skyscrapers, or an animal-human hybrid, who is looking for a power socket for his loud-speaker. A headless warrior with a raised sword posing on a plinth is ridiculing our tradition of heroes. It is up to the viewer to put life into these stories and to complete them. In any case, it requires a certain dose of irony when Rotzetter is portraying the insanity of our world in fabulous, giant pictures.


'Gilles Rotzetter, Crossing Fire', Allerheiligen Museum, until 29.04.<br>

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This interview is published with the support of the Swiss cultural foundation Pro Helvetia Moving Words for the Swiss advancement of translation.
Translation: Paul Harper<br><br>
<a href="">Deutsche Version</a>