“I think it’s fascinating how we are continuously walking on top of the entire history of the world. As if you could go back to the beginning of time if you just keep digging. For me this thought refers to the chaos or mess that is hidden underneath the relatively smooth surface of our pavements and lawns.” Willem Weismann, September 2016
For his exhibition Basement Odyssey, Willem Weismann is producing an ambitious suite of new paintings which take the viewer on a journey through layers of space, time and meaning. Responding to the proportions of the gallery and to the building’s past life as a church, Weismann will install a large triptych of canvases which flow around the walls of the room. Andrea Mantegna’s Renaissance masterpiece Triumph of Caesar, on view at Hampton Court Palace, is a particular inspiration, with Weismann wryly channelling such a grand tradition to produce his own version of a visual “shaggy dog story”.
The idea of discovering what lies behind facades or beneath our feet is a central motif for the exhibition. When viewed in sequence the paintings move from an exterior view of a street, to the inside of a mysterious blue-bricked building, down into a basement space where concrete floors dissolve into lava, revealing fossilised bones and suits of armour.
This spatial and narrative device references comic book panels and cinema, in particular extensive panning shots as pioneered by Orson Welles in films such as Touch of Evil. A further influence, from Weismann’s own youth, are 1980s adventure video games. The first painting in the triptych is loosely inspired by the post-apocalyptic game Manhunter: New York which features a nightclub called “Wretched Excess”. Parallels between Weismann’s paintings and video games can be felt in the way characters move through spaces, and how connections are suggested through the arrangement of symbolic objects, as if they were clues in some kind of larger puzzle. Weismann explores the possibilities of painting to be a store of meaning with parallels to other forms of physical and virtual archives, and to be a surface on which we might wrestle with making sense of a world in flux.
Willem Weismann (b. Eindhoven, The Netherlands, 1977) has been living in London since 2003. He studied at Arnhem Institute for the Arts, the Netherlands 1997-2002 and Goldsmiths College 2003-2004. He won the East London Painting Prize in 2015. Weismann has had solo shows at Cabin Gallery, London, The Nunnery gallery, London, Galeria Quadrado Azul, Porto and Museum voor Moderne Kunst, Arnhem. Recent group exhibitions includes Summer Show, Turps Gallery, London and Secret European Studio at ArthouSE1, London.