The Theatre of the Self, curated by ARTUNER at Freda and Izak Uziyel’s home gallery in Hampstead, London, brings together contemporary German artists David Czupryn and Katja Seib in an extraordinary setting. Czupryn and Seib have created new paintings in response to contemporary master Thomas Schütte, one of the most important artists of his generation, which will be displayed alongside a number of Schütte’s sculptures from the Uziyels’ private collection. For this exhibition, Czupryn and Seib will open a window onto parallel worlds, where their characters perform mysterious rituals and performative acts.
David Czupryn’s surrealist paintings investigate and push the boundaries of human representation. Treading a fine line between still-life and portraiture, the artist creates fantastical worlds inhabited by humanoid hybrids which appear like snapshots from a larger narrative. The otherworldly features of Czupryn’s figures closely recall Thomas Schütte’s interest in lurid anatomies. The synthesis of nature and industrially engineered materials is a very important aspect of Czupryn’s work. And the seemingly organic androids that populate his paintings are constructed out of materials found at the intersection between nature, man-made polymers and imagination.
Having started his artistic career as a sculptor, Czupryn has a keen interest in examining sculptural presence in his paintings and often incorporates references to other artists in his work. In the series of new paintings featured in this exhibition, Czupryn prepares the scene for an unknown and yet uncannily familiar play, where the set is composed of scenographies by Lichtenstein and Polke and props by Georg Herold and Lygia Clark, among others. The stage appears deserted though, creating a feeling of uncertainty as to whether the actors are yet to arrive or rather tricking the audience’s senses and hiding in the background.
Katja Seib explores the world in her paintings through a cinematic and dreamlike lens. She creates dramatic scenes that implicate the viewers by turning them into voyeurs. Similarly to Schütte and Czupryn, Seib’s paintings depict microcosms that hint at a larger narrative, allowing the viewer to move freely from one scene to the next and become part of the script.
Seib paints exclusively in a figurative style, allowing her to develop alluring and mysterious narratives of desire and strangeness. Seib’s new works created for this exhibition are inspired by a series of photographs which the artist took in Los Angeles. Usually an acute observer of facial features – like Schütte – in this series Seib has decided to hinder the view of her characters’ faces. Her subjects turn their backs to us and divert their attention elsewhere, staring at a brick wall or at their mobile phones, and their poses are reminiscent of those of the great Romantics, such as Caspar David Friedrich. Her work inspires a contemporary feeling of the sublime; an ‘urban-sublime’ where one’s existence lies between a mundane and alienating reality and an unmediated awareness of being. Much like nature in the 19th century, today the urban landscape has become a site for transcendence and Katja Seib observes it with an unflinching and poetic eye.