Wilhelm Neusser (Painting Finalist ’20) invites us into his studio to share the creative yield from the “lost” spring and summer of COVID: paintings from his new solo exhibition.
In my most recent body of work, a thicket of forsythia or a chain link fence create a space just out of reach, suggesting a longing for an indeterminate place or time. The exhibition of these paintings, The Sixth Season, currently on view at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery, refers to a mysterious missing panel in a famous series by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Like the work of this 16th century forerunner, my paintings invite speculation. What or which time is lost? The Sixth Season contrasts our nature as social beings with the experience of a season lost, the pandemic spring of 2020.
When the lockdown began, many artists who could continue to work in their studios pointed out that working “in isolation” was already second nature. My experience of solitude, painting almost every day in my Somerville studio over the last six months, went both ways: on the one hand, I felt very absorbed in my work and pushed many paintings further than I would have under different circumstances. Crisis sparks invention. On the other hand, that same solitude backfired every once in a while, and constantly being in front of the work felt too close for comfort. I was drowning. Seeing the paintings in the gallery now, on crisp white walls, is rewarding and marks the end of an intimate and intense season.
In light of the current pandemic and the political state of the country, we long for the days of the past and a return to a sense of normalcy. But what is it exactly that we long to return to? The “new normal” is left to each of us to contemplate and to define. My paintings pay homage to isolation, to the loneliness that socially and physically distances us from the world. But the works do not stop there. Instead they add a shock of bright yellow or a playfully stripped piece of fabric to show us that there can be beauty even in times of darkness. Do these colors reflect a brighter, more equitable future?
Wilhelm Neusser is a visual artist whose recent museum exhibitions include the Rijksmuseum, the Fruitlands Museum, and MASS MoCA. Along with his recent Finalist award from Mass Cultural Council, he has received awards and recognition from the MASS MoCA Studio Program, Vermont Studio Center, Wilhelm-Morgner-Prize, and numerous others. Neusser’s work has been included in notable publications, including The Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Artscope Magazine, Boston.com, and Big Red & Shiny. Wilhelm Neusser was born in Cologne, Germany. He relocated to the United States in 2011, and currently lives and works in Somerville, MA.
Images: images of the artist and artist’s studio courtesy of Wilhelm Neusser; paintings by Wilhelm Neusser (photos by J. Featheringill): PICNIC (#2026) (2020), Oil on linen, 48×40 in; BOG/WHITE CLOUD (#2058) (2020), Oil on linen, 66×48 in; MARCH/ORANGE (#2031) (2020), Oil on linen, 66×48 in; DOWNHILL (#2021) (2020), Oil on linen, 48×66 in; BOG/WHITE CLOUD (#2003) (2020), Oil on linen, 39.4×47.2 in; gallery view of THE SIXTH SEASON by Wilhelm Neusser at Abigail Oglivy Gallery in Boston.