Urban life paintings


Luc Imsand is a painter of town life.  He paints the town as a stage of life, he paints the people that inhabit it.  The town appears as a cosmos of places, spaces and relationships, which fire people with energy while in return assuming their dreams, actions and desires. Imsand represents what he sees around himself, he is a chronicler of and participant in urban life.  He frequently travels to Asia and South America, he meets Nature, but does not paint it.  With a new outlook, he returns to the town that he happens to be living in, be it Glasgow, Lausanne, or wherever.  The town is his topic, this is where life is constantly evolving, where threat and destruction hold sway, this is where, as in a burning mirror, the forces will constantly be released, which determine Western society.

But Imsand does not regard the town as some sort of modern paradise, his pictures show the numerous forms of addiction found - alcohol, drugs, wealth, TV, computer, sex.  This addiction is merely the expression of a longing for life.  One gets drunk in a bar alone (Alone and drinking), or shoots up alone in a toilet (Toxicomanie), or watches television (TV Foot) or sits up at the computer (Computer all night).  Night life is in full swing outside the window, but that is of no interest as compared to the virtual world provided by the computer.  Others seek their satisfaction in wealth and its symbols.  The young woman dressed in black stands demandingly beside a luxury sedan (She wanted everything).

Imsand represents the town, because he wants to show people.  We frequently find them in hotel rooms, bars, in changing interiors and rows of buildings, in railway stations or public squares, alone or in groups.  But being together in the same place still does not constitute a meeting or a contact, so while being together with other people in a town, one can still often be alone.  In the painting, Night Away, someone is sitting at the piano, someone else at a table, a third is behind the bar and a woman, stripped to her undies, occupies the middle of the room.  But there is no erotic tension for all that, not even any kind of communication, each character remains alone with him or herself.  The figures appear small given the space that separates them.  Even where a relationship is suggested (Business or affair), it remains a moot point as to where things are heading – business or an affair?  Even body contact (Difference) hints rather at a search for proximity, at an interplay of the sexes, of availability, but it stops short of bridging the difference.

Boredom reigns as one observes how time passes (Watching the times go by) or tries to escape the town by taking a train – any train – at the station (Leaving) – possibly only to end up in some other town?  What could the purpose be?  Does one have to change something, for life to go on, is it worth fighting (Marcha por la vida)?  What goals and ideals, what rights drive or defend the little column of demonstrators, lost in the great expanse of the town?

Luc Imsand does not provide answers to these questions, he makes no moral judgement, he merely observes.  He transforms his experiences into light, fluid paintings, which draw on stark colour contrasts and need no large formats for their effect.  The clearly delimited colour surfaces separate people and things more than they connect them.  Even though the topic of town painting has a tradition in the history of art, to which Imsand also belongs, any comparisons are nevertheless misleading.  For example, Imsand has nothing to do with the “dynamising” and “demonising” of the town in Expressionism, the claustrophobic interiors of Munch, the formal hardness of the new Materialism, the world-stage symbolism of Beckmann or the melancholia of Hopper.  Nevertheless, what Imsand has in common with these artists is the fascination the town holds for him.  Perhaps we can imagine our modern life only as an urban life that, marked by the rhythm and the energy of the town, by its places and spaces, eggs us on to constant mobility.  The countryside is no longer our terrain as we, the modern nomads, inhabit the town and its nights.

Volker Adolphs

Curator & chief of exhibitions of the Kunst Museum of Bonn

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