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Chapter 5

Hannes Zulauf’s series No title (Sugar Coating) concludes the exhibition series Home Stories to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Kunstmuseum Thun. The seven paintings exhibited are part of a series created between 2021 and 2022 which was conceived as a work in progress and currently comprises around 40 works. Common themes quickly emerge: a powerful pink colour, which has been tinted in places with varying amounts of white and applied to the canvas with a fine glaze or in impasto, streaky brush strokes like icing. The bright colours give the pictures an extremely sweet, barely tolerable aspect, which strangely alienates what is depicted and provides an unusual view of everyday life: trees, mountains, forests, roads and clouds suddenly appear irritatingly strange and unfamiliar.

Hannes Zulauf, ohne Titel (Sugar Coating), Inv. 7221.1
Hannes Zulauf, ohne Titel (Sugar Coating), Inv. 7221.2
Hannes Zulauf, ohne Titel (Sugar Coating), Inv. 7221.3

No title (Sugar Coating) can be regarded as a critical exploration of the conventions of representation in the centuries-old tradition of landscape painting, in that the artist no longer emphasises what is depicted but rather how it is represented, thereby turning it into something artificial. Unlike Leon Battista Alberti in the Renaissance, Zulauf does not conceive the canvas as a window to reality – instead, the application of colour itself and the themes become the subject in his work. The Bern-based artist reflects critically on the landscape-painting genre in landscape painting itself: for example, the romantic or sublime landscape captured from an elevated viewpoint, or the street wending its way from the foreground to the horizon, is exposed as a convention to emphasise the depth of the pictorial space. Furthermore, the omnipresence of the colour pink lends the images something latently eerie and threatening, reminiscent of irradiated and uninhabitable landscapes after a nuclear strike.

Hannes Zulauf, ohne Titel (Sugar Coating), Inv. 7221.4
Hannes Zulauf, ohne Titel (Sugar Coating), Inv. 7221.5
Hannes Zulauf, ohne Titel (Sugar Coating), Inv. 7221.6
Hannes Zulauf, ohne Titel (Sugar Coating), Inv. 7221.7

The collection of the Kunstmuseum Thun has other works which explore the theme of the landscape in various media and create “their own idiosyncratic worlds”. Even though there is still the possibility that the pictures of these artists reference reality, they cannot be localised anywhere.

Artist Monica Ursina Jäger explores the urban space in great depth. In her large-format drawings, she creates dystopian landscapes based on pictorial material she has found or created herself, and on photographs of real environments and buildings. Using black and white ink, she combines this material into imaginary, almost gloomy worlds.

Magnificent, icy mountain landscapes created on a computer: these are the themes of Rainer Eisch’s works. What seems deceptively real at first glance are in fact pure fantasy landscapes. In the mid-2000s, the Steffisburg-born artist (originally a sculptor) began creating imaginary places using 3D programs, raising the issue of what realities the digital world can create.

In Julian Charrière’s video work we take a look behind the scenes. The result is a series of large-format photographs, each bearing the title Panorama with the coordinates of the location depicted. At first glance, viewers feel that they are looking at mountain landscapes, but if you enter the coordinates, what usually appears – annoyingly – is somewhere in the middle of an urban environment. The video work in our collection dispels the confusion generated by the photographs by showing the process used to create the imaginary landscapes, and by illustrating the theme of the illusion of scale. On wasteland, Charrière scattered fine flour dust over piles of earth and rubble, creating the impression of snow-covered mountains.

Max Matter’s work is called Schnelle Landschaft [Fast Landscape]. The Aargau-based artist focuses on the world of colour. Created by photochemical experiments, the photograph seems almost abstract, reminiscent of a landscape in psychedelic colours that sometimes merge, bloom or form streaks. The title of the work, however, remains ambivalent: does it refer to the rapid process of creating the photograph, or the viewer’s rapid ability to understand the aesthetics of perception? Not only the title, but also what is depicted must ultimately remain open and merely refers to the self-image of the chemicals on the photographic paper.