Markus Schinwald

Markus Schinwald, Selected Works, 2005-2009. Photograph by Thierry Bal

Markus Schinwald, Selected Works, 2005-2009. Photograph by Thierry Bal

The human body plays a central role in the art of Markus Schinwald (b.1973, Austria). The characters he portrays in his films, photographs and – most noticeably – in his paintings are generally constrained by prostheses and mechanical apparatuses. These devices impede any spontaneity in their movements and create a visual short circuit between the apparent smoothness of their poses, the elegant nonchalance of the sitters and the sense of coercion and violence emanating from these instruments of torture.

The prostheses, Schinwald maintains, are particularly unsettling because one cannot decipher their function. Once deprived of an obvious purpose, they become a general metaphor for uneasiness without further clarification. The fact that their meaning or function is uncertain makes them – besides mysterious – disquieting.

Schinwald’s analysis of the human psyche manifests the unsaid and stages (and the term could not be more appropriate since he often references theatre and theatricality) the morbid turbulence of the spirit. The artist brings the inside out, and by so doing the tortuous paths of the psychoanalytic Id surface on his canvases. His work confronts the complex relations that inevitably bond sadist and masochist. In his art it is never clear who is performing violence on whom. The message is ambivalent and consequently blurs the separation between the aggressor and his/her victim.

In several cases, the pains suffered by his characters appear somehow to be self-inflicted: almost a desired form of martyrdom or flagellation. They address implicitly the need to expiate affects such as shame, guilt or a sense of inadequacy. Ultimately they allude to social stigma, and comment on the physical and emotional restrictions imposed by societal order and conventions. The tools of social control are often very subtle, and deconstructing their meaning is not a simple task: Schinwald’s soft and mysterious tortures represent a poignant allegorical reference to their power.

Markus Schinwald at Liverpool Biennial 2010

Selected Works, 2005-2009
Oil on canvas
Exhibited at 52 Renshaw Street