Norbert Schwontkowski (1949 – 2013), who lived in Bremen and who was barely known beyond the borders of Northern Germany for a long time, was an artistic loner who did not exactly qualify as art businesses’ darling. His painting is far too bizarre and too strange (in the best way possible) and never pleasing. His works, which are often painted in brown, grey or black, convey a feeling of great seriousness, which sometimes takes shape in form of grotesque, bitterly humorous motives. This profundity was part of his work almost from the beginning and characterizes it more than any superficial stylistics.
Norbert Schwontkowski was a painter of the “condition humaine,” who put us humans and our absurd acting center stage in his otherwise mostly empty pictures. He lets one person lean out of a window looking for something that remains secret to us, while another races through dark tunnels in their car and yet another steps from stone to stone, constantly risking to slip and get lost. There is no hope in the artist’s works; neither religion nor art – which both are subjects of his paintings – offer a perspective of salvation. All they provide are illusions, flashing phenomena like the reoccurring cinema screens which do present nothing more than empty white surfaces. Hence, the human being never stops searching and always stays a traveler without destination for whose disorientation Norbert Schwontkowski has found fitting pictorial formulas, which at times are reminiscent of the painting of romanticism. From a distance, the staggering clerics in one of the artist’s paintings remind us of Friedrich’s The Monk by the Sea; yet Schwontkowski creates his very own world, a private iconography, which in part still seeks to be deciphered.
The exhibition, which is organized on the occasion of what would be Norbert Schwontkowsi’s 70th birthday, will include 64 works from the early 1990s until 2012 and will be accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue.
After its presentation in Bonn, the show will be on display at the Kunsthalle Bremen and the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag.
With kind support from the Stiftung Kunst der Sparkasse in Köln and the Galerie Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin