Peter Wüthrich "Pharmacie littéraire"
10 June – 12 July 2014
Like many creators of art, Peter Wüthrich is restless, a hunter and gatherer. His original and primary passion is books: his life and work revolve around them. When collecting books, both the classics of world literature and popular bestsellers interest him.
For the visual artist within him, it is painting that is of primary importance. In his studio, the collection of linen-bound covers becomes the painter’s palette. Thus, area of colour follows upon area of colour, and they form pixel-like, abstract images. In addition to the painterly element, the artist is also involved in sculpture. With books serving as building blocks, he builds massive objects and sets them in relation to space. In doing so, he profits from the fact that the book is a universal cultural good that stirs up individual emotions and memories and thus permits a direct and personal interaction with his work.
By placing the medium of writing and the cultural good of the “book” in the context of art, he has created a fascinating field of research for himself, which contrasts the linearity of the narrative with the visual apprehension of the world. His works function like constantly growing networks; they establish associations that lead to new connections and poetic insights – both in art and in the literary discussion.
An old apothecary’s cupboard filled with bottles, vials and jars has provided the exhibition with its title. The labels cite literary classics, such as Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita”, Emile Zola’s “Le rêve” or James Joyce’s “Ulysses”. Like the antique little bottles, the inscriptions are somewhat the worse for wear and derive from the endpapers of the paperback editions mentioned here. In homeopathic doses, the literary essence of this medicine promises poetic healing for plagued souls.
In the works “Collection Silva” (2012), “Diamonds” (2012) and the “Literary Horizons”, the focus is primarily on the theme of painting, but the contemplation of these works is also enriched by playful references to great art historical figures, such as Josef Albers and Richard Paul Lohse as well as Mark Rothko.
An additional focus is formed by the butterfly works, such as “Buchfalter” (2013) or “Tropique des livres papillons” (2012). The butterflies that the artist cuts individually out of the book covers of the Gallimard series are metaphors for the books and for what they unleash in people’s heads and hearts. Like butterflies, thoughts flutter through the world, moving vigorously and ingraining themselves – like the insects that congeal into an imago in the last stage of their development – somewhere in a remembered image.
Peter Wüthrich also uses the covers of the paperbacks from used book shops as labels for tin cans. With a twinkle in his eye, “literary food” (2013) has been presented in terms of a nourishment for the mind – in contrast to nourishment for the body. Here the comparison with Manzoni’s jar, the “merda d’artista”, comes to mind, as do Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Can” paintings. However, the tin cans of Peter Wüthrich wander casually and independently within their universe of literary classics and bestsellers.
In the erotic cabinet of the lower level, it finally becomes a question of the innards of the books. Famous women of world literature confront us in the form of intricately tailored underwear. Each of the texts from “Madame Bovary”, “Lolita”, “Emma” or “Anna Karenina” – all stories about more or less provocative ladies – have been worked into “material” by the artist. If literature is to serve as medicine and nourishment, then it is only natural that women could also put on this “material”!
The references to the book and to literature are finally doubled and tripled in the video “le mépris” (2013). The video deals with Alberto Moravia’s book “Contempt”. In 1963 Goddard created a film version of the book with Brigitte Bardot and Michel Piccoli. This film includes a famous scene in which Bardot lies half naked in bed, speaking to her husband. Both of them talk at cross purposes, in keeping with gendered stereotypes. Peter Wüthrich reconstructs the scene with a model and, in doing so, irreverently uses the novel as a veil for her backside. However, his model is not talking to her husband; instead, she is watching precisely this scene from Goddard’s film in an endless loop. Normally, film versions are created of books. Here Peter Wüthrich takes pleasure in making a video of a film about a book.
Liselotte Wirth Schnöller, April 2014
Translation: Michael Wetzel