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Julian Schnabel: an artist out of boundaries

Updated: May 25, 2023



Breaking boundaries and overcoming borders. Julian Schnabel is an artist with an exuberant personality, who has always loved challenging himself to break out of categories and schemes, experimenting with many different types of art. From painter to filmmaker, from musician to writer. Each of his works is the result of a way of living: there are no formal rules, the important thing is to express what he sees, feels and thinks. To visit one of his exhibitions is to be invested with emotions and to watch him paint can be even more impactful. Imagine observing a man dressed in pyjamas or only in an overcoat who, in the middle of winter, spreads a huge tarpaulin on a lawn and starts to spread paint in an apparently random way, totally estranged from the surrounding world. "I don't feel the cold. When I work it is as if I forget about the body, as if I forget about everything,' he says in an interview.


Julian Schnabel - picture from "Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait"


Many prominent artists and personalities from the art world have spoken and written about him. Laurie Anderson in a small Youtube video sweetly and ironically says, for example, that she admires his sense of adventure. Because for Schnabel, every painting, every project is to be experienced instinctively and with all possible enthusiasm. And this side of his character is well told in the documentary 'Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait' by Pappi Corsicato. You can find it on Netflix, but we leave you the trailer here.



His monumental works are often produced from discarded materials that he salvages from different places. In the 1980s, Schnabel became famous above all for his plate paintings: works that acquire three-dimensionality from the use of broken plates, which, when reassembled, become new canvases to be painted in order to create shapes, profiles and human faces.


In fact, Schnabel is above all attracted by the re-interpretation of objects, signs, shapes giving them new meaning. And it is also clear when he uses an old car tarpaulins recovered from a warehouse in Mexico or when he superimposes inscriptions or stains of paint on maps and photographs, transforming them into new symbols of something that is and perhaps cannot be seen.



Today Julian Schnabel is one of the artists on show in the sixteenth-century space of Fondazione Made in Cloister for INTERACTION NAPLES. His work consists of five maps that draw the borders of Ukraine, smeared with brushstrokes of red and purple clutter, or overlaid with writing that says: nothing to be gained here.


"Schnabel's works become vessels of a poetics that is, at the same time, personal and universal. The fact that he intentionally paints something that is not tangible generates a representation that is much more faithful to experience than any possible attempt to portray the physical world realistically."

In his case, the fact that he intentionally paints something that is not tangible generates a representation that is much more faithful to experience than any possible attempt to portray the physical world realistically."

Max Hollein, current director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.


The five maps encircle a human figure, a drawing depicting an intimate moment between the sleeping, perhaps dreaming artist Laurie Anderson and her dog Lolabelle resting on her feet. A sentimental work therefore, recalling the relationship of great affection between the artist and her animal. And it is the serenity conveyed by Laurie Anderson that contrasts with Schnabel's works full of restlessness.



It is not easy to admire Julian Schnabel's works in Italy, but until September you can find him in Fondazione Made in Cloister. We look forward to the next in-depth look at artist Laurie Anderson. Leave a comment to let us know how you liked it and what else you would like to read. See you soon!

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