24 October – 22 November 1997
White Cube Duke Street
Christian Schumann’s work was once described as ‘a bumpy road that seems to lead towards a technicolour adolescent apocalypse.’ At White Cube, Schumann showed works with an extra-terrestrial theme, taking viewers on a voyage through a compressed universe of spliced imagery and restless doodles.
Brimming with information, one of the paintings exhibited, entitled Tico (1997), featured a plethora of asteroids and alien creatures, jostling with incongruous images, such as an aeroplane and a man’s head. The canvas is overrun with hyper-detailed drawings that feverishly spread across the picture plane, filling every corner of available space—there seems to be no hierarchical value assigned to each of the work’s different elements. In another work, Soft Theory (1997), Schumann maps out an organic, growing structure that resembles a space station, hovering in zero gravity. As is often the case with his paintings, there is evidence of a continuous tug of war between chaos and coherence. In general, the artist’s work is characterised not only by a surfeit of information, but also by the use of a range of different sources and techniques. Schumann combines drawing and painting with borrowed images and collage, so that the surfaces of his pictures vary from smooth grounds of opaque colour, to areas that have been creased, or worn by abrasion. He also adopts a wide range of drawing styles, often raiding the aesthetics of popular culture: cartoon imagery is prevalent, and he also borrows the structural devices of comic-book layout. In addition, Schumann uses texts framed in boxes—verbal puns, song lyrics and nonsensical dialogue—to suggest disjointed narratives. However, in the White Cube show, text played a less pivotal role, as he transformed the non-hierarchical, busy compositions so critical to American abstract painting, into a frenetic cosmos that seethes with energy and humour.