We are pleased to present the first solo exhibition by Ashley Hans Scheirl in our Vienna gallery. Under the title “Neoliberal Surrealist,” the artist is showing new paintings and sculptures, transforming the entire gallery into an installational dream landscape where sexuality and desire, economy and greed merge into one.
In Ashley Hans Scheirl’s paintings, body parts, abstract pictograms, and cartoon elements form an undefined world. Starting from an expressive, black-and-white color application, Scheirl creates a digital collage that
is then transposed to the canvas. She thus combines different styles, techniques, and genres to a tension-filled, unique aesthetic. Perspectival entanglements and absurd paradoxes dominate the surreal image worlds, in which the painterly is enmeshed with the digital.
The unresolved tension of the crossover use of different forms of expression goes hand in hand with Scheirl’s absurd-obscene iconography. Body openings, excrements, and genitals populate the canvas in dislocated, fragmented, but still monumentalized form. Critically, but also with a sense of humor, the artist presents taboo objects that take up the paintings together with status symbols such as cars, clothing, and luxury items. Visions and perversions, innocent wishes, forbidden desires, and mad hallucinations are recorded ruthlessly.
As in a dream, sense is dissolved by mysterious signs, dismembered objects, and unresolved contrasts. From
all of these medial, stylistic, and thematic transgressions arises a world in which order and disorder permeate one another. A “chaosmos” in which—freely adapted from James Joyce—the duality of freedom and restriction, openness and regulation, chaos and cosmos is suspended and both poles connect in a synthetic manner.
Ashley Hans Scheirl’s painting thereby inscribes itself into the discourse of postmodernity ignited by Jean- François Lyotard, in which grand narratives make way for a pluralist, chaotic, and random world. In a time in which there can be no more fixed concepts and norms, identity as the experienced inner unit of the self is replaced by a concept of the subject that is marked by transformation, fragmentation, and heterogenization. Following an illusion of free will, the body appears as a variable that can be altered at will.
The title “Neoliberal Surrealists,” which refers to Markus Metz’s and Georg Seeßlen’s writings on capitalist surrealism, highlights the illusory moment of this fiction. In a system marked by a global consumer culture and an omnipresent media landscape, subjectivity is mainly constructed around a lifestyle that can be purchased both in a luxury boutique and in a dollar store.
The way the paintings are staged in the gallery room creates a kind of lm set or theater stage on which an absurd, partly obscene, but always critical piece is being shown. The pictures are not simply hung from the gallery walls, the sculptures not merely placed in the tting spot. Rather, they break away from the surfaces of the “white cube,” expand into the space, connect with it and become its integral parts. The division of auditorium and stage is suspended and the viewer invited to take their own position within the surreal events.
Scheirl herself consciously joins the narrative of the neoliberal society, in which the staging replaces the
actual product, while the subjects become circulating commodities. She thus continues to explore the
boundary between artist and work, becomes an actress in experimental lms and performances, or appears in the parallel worlds of her canvases. A scene from the 1991 lm “Rote Ohren fetzen durch Asche”/“Flaming Ears,” shown internationally many times, depicts Scheirl in a red vinyl suit, baldheaded, in dystopian scenery. The film is being shown in a separate exhibition room for the rst time in a long while and refers us to the context of its creation, its technical mediation, and its creation process—and thus to the conditions of the medium itself. It forms a bridge to the paintings that, despite the temporal and medial di erence, speak to similar topics. Here, too, Scheirl is sketching a difuse “chaosmos,” as it were, that fluctuates between excess and loneliness, between drivenness and resignation.
Ashley Hans Scheirl was born in Salzburg in 1956. She took part in the documenta 14 in Kassel and Athens in 2017 and has been teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna since 2006 as a professor for contextual
painting. Scheirl lived in London for 16 years, where she gained international recognition in the early 1980s for her experimental lm and video works. Since the 1990s, she has been turning back to painting again. Her works have been shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, at the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, at the Kunsthaus Bregenz, among other places, as well as most recently in comprehensive solo exhibitions at the Kunstverein Salzburg and the Künstlerhaus Graz.