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Jean-Frédéric Schnyder

Silberdistel, 2003
52.0 x 218.0 cm
Although Jean-Frédéric Schnyder is mainly known for his paintings, the artist has worked in other media, and in the early years of this century, he returned to photography. The practice allows him to compose immense panoramic views that starkly contrast with the miniature aspect of his canvases.

In 2003 he begins the photo series from which Silbersdistel (Silver thistle) is taken. A row of thistles stands out against a mountain landscape in an unusual shift of scale, from a foreground showing giant, perfectly aligned flowers to a distant horizon of rocky peaks. The artificial aspect of the staged photo is superimposed over the view of an untouchable nature. Juxtaposing two archetypal mountain images, the artist is drawing on those emblematic views of Switzerland that are designed to inspire wonder.

Nowadays, this vision of an idyllic nature is used to promote consumer goods in advertising posters that are brimming with promises. Such poster imagery is, in turn, reworked by the artist in a humorous, off-beat play of quotations with which Schnyder surprises viewers by offering them associations that are disconcerting, even contradictory at times. His photographic mountains, for instance, might display both Alpine flowers (crocus, edelweiss, dandelion or thistles) and empty packets of cigarettes. Schnyder stresses the kitschy, heaven-on-earth aspect of the depictions of landscapes whilst offering a scathing view of this same panorama, making it impossible for one to enjoy it. He playfully shakes up the images that are imprinted in our collective unconscious and never shies from discreetly sending them up. Likewise, in his painting, he disrupts cultural codes by drawing indifferently on the resources of art history (with the tradition of the grandiose landscape) and mass culture (via the vocabulary of advertising), a range of references whose convergence plays havoc with the viewer’s visual comfort.
Jean-Frédéric Schnyder, Silberdistel, Chardon argenté, 2003