9 January – 13 February 2010

Perusing the Scenery is Erik Schmidt’s second exhibition at Praz-Delavallade after ‘Nach der Jagd ist vor der Jagd’ in 2006. His new works reflect Schmidt’s observations of the Holy Land, stemming from several journeys to the hills of Judaea, the Golan Heights and the Dead Sea. His conscious and deliberate decision to approach his material with the romantic idealism of a nineteenth century tourist armed with Baedeker and pith helmet might seem naive considering the paradox between the beauty of the scenery and the tension immanent in the images as a result of their context, yet Schmidt himself provokes by admitting this buildup of energy, with both creative and destructive aspects, into the works on show.

In the oil paintings, bucolic scenes, almost scientific in their dissection of the geography, are juxtaposed with the geometric forms of concrete, urban inclusions in the landscape, which, in turn, seem to melt into the heat-haze hanging over them. Schmidt’s trademark application of paint, deep like bunches of grapes or discarded fruit peel, elevates the everyday into the spectacular, an olive tree glows in the sun, splendid like gold, alongside pastel tones that would be twee but for the muscular interference of that burning, aggressive orange.

As if to drive home the spontaneous aesthetic of the casual traveller, one corner of the show is devoted to a slide show of scenes from the Dead Sea’s shores - disjointed pictures flick past, banal yet incisive, slicing up the unreal monotony of the receding waters and parched earth into segments: holiday makers bathing in the brine, mounds of salt, and the artist himself, distanced in his mise-en-scene, showering nonchalantly, freeing himself of the dust, grime and sweat.

Schmidt’s jaffa impressionism harks back to the innocent era of ‘Visit Palestine’ posters, coupled with an almost imperial drive to subvert the seen into the seeming by applying his own thick layer of artistry to the simple, archaic imagery; a troubling evocation of the earthly desire for the land and our belief in a unique ability to see beyond the surface, forcing us to re-examine our standpoint tirelessly and lock into the simplicity of the vista constructed by the mind’s eye.

Geoffrey Whittaker