Stefan Schiek: Everything is not alright

Stefan Schiek does not simply paint pictures. The artist has created his own typology of characters and situations, ranging from the everyday, to the sinister. We are drawn into a fascinating fusion of fantasy and reality in Schiek’s work. At first glance, his paintings appear cheerful and friendly, but gradually, the more one allows oneself to become immersed, disturbing traits begin to appear, traits that linger long after turning one’s back on them.

Stefan Schiek, The Road, 2012, Gloss varnish on MDF

Schiek’s works are immediately recognisable. The colours, shapes, and his particular way of representing objects, are very much his own. Using a limited number of strong, smoothly applied colours, reminiscent of comic strips, each painting consists of a series of clearly separated flat elements. Using industrial enamels on MDF and aluminium supports, Schiek’s works appear smooth, clean, and almost machine-made, befitting of his choice of industrial paints typically intended for spraying, powder coating or immersion. The surfaces, sealed with finishing coatings of clear varnish, appear sheened, polished. The impulse to touch them is almost irresistible. On moving closer, however, one notices that the colours sealed within have a thickness that varies – their supposed immateriality proves to be an optical illusion.

The figures in Schiek’s paintings do not attempt to establish contact with the observer. Schiek’s lapidary, epitaph-like titles emphasise this tendency towards the general, as does the fact that he refrains from individualising his figures. These figures are not marked out as dangerous. Quite the opposite: they attempt to help. They put themselves at risk. They take samples, analyse, gauge, clean up and take care of the dead and the injured.

Stefan Schiek, Swamp, 2015, Gloss varnish on aluminium

Still, however absorbed they are by their tasks, they too seem helpless, out of their depth and at the mercy of the event at hand. As observers we see the futility of their efforts better than they do themselves. What they seem not to understand is that more powerful forces are at work.

Stefan Schiek, The Red Button, 2010, Gloss varnish on MDF

The world in which they operate no longer is a world in which everything is alright.

Excerpt from: The Artistic World of Stefan Schiek, Karl Schaukle, 2013. Edited by D. A. Kerr, 2019

Stefan Schiek, Drilling, 2012, Gloss varnish on MDF

Stefan Schiek is represented by Galerie Eigenheim Weimar & Berlin

Header image credit: Stefan Schiek, Dawn, 2014, Gloss varnish on aluminium