Peter Stauss: Sympathy
Jun 3 - Jul 17, 2004
Duell, 2004
oil on stitched fabric
160 x 130 cm


Ritter/Zamet is pleased to present the first solo exhibition in the UK of new paintings and works on paper by Berlin-based artist Peter Stauss.

Stauss creates uncomfortable fables for our times. Deriving imagery from a cross section of ideological, historical, religious and art-historical themes, he discerningly de-masks the intrepid ideals of modernity to expose an underlying hypocritical conscience. His cast of bizarre, recurring characters spanning saints to soldiers, bedraggled revolutionaries, dope-smoking hippies and dislocated historical figures embody a general sense of self pity and self victimisation in the face of socio-political lethargy and stagnation. At the same time, he delves decisively into the history of the artistic avant-garde, combining references from the likes of Daumier, Picasso and German Expressionism.

Although Stauss’ paintings superficially identify with the allegorical didacticism of the history-painting genre, they always frustrate a definite meaning through tangential shifts of context or displaced narrative. And, it is Stauss’ formal and compositional virtuosity that binds it all together. Vibrant slashes of primary colour against raw canvas and adeptly articulated landscapes, sunsets and off-kilter horizon lines construct frames for the human activity that is taking place. A host of beleaguered ship-wreckees stumble from the horizon onto a rocky beach, only to be greeted by a host of nail-picking, joint-smoking locals in wigs and loin-cloths; former revolutionaries loiter apathetically on giant multi-coloured exercise balls as Mother Teresa looks on from above in sympathy rather than solidarity.

In comparison to the paintings, the ink-watercolours are more intimate and condensed. Precisely drawn figures set amongst contrasted masses of light and shadow generate a more absurd and ominous mood, reminiscent of the dark, graphic parables of Rembrandt, Goya and Hogarth.

Peter Stauss’ disquieting contemporary antiheros dislocate the viewer’s position leaving us uncertain where our sympathies lie. As much as we’d like to take on the role of dispassionate voyeur, we also cannot help but identify with the darker side of humanity and the more sinister signs of the times that he depicts.

Since 1999, Peter Stauss has had regular solo exhibitions with galleries in Germany. In 2000, he showed with fellow painter, Thomas Scheibitz at LOOP in Berlin and his work was included in Peep Show: a glimpse of the Frank Cohen Collection, in Manchester last year. His paintings are also to be included in an upcoming group exhibition at David Zwirner Gallery, New York.