Marius Steiger at Mattenstrasse 81 / Biel

Marius Steiger at Mattenstrasse 81, Biel

Marius Steiger / Four Seasons

January 28 – March 3, 2021
Mattenstrasse 81
2503 Biel, Switzerland

Photo credit Andrei Oros
Photo credit Andrei Oros

Photo credit Andrei Oros

Photo credit Andrei Oros

Photo credit Andrei Oros

Photo credit Andrei Oros

“As the seasons change…” A girl once started
a letter to me that marked the end of our rela-
tionship. She went on to describe the problems
that led to this decision and the hopes mov-
ing forward, the chances that lay in this step. I
think of this sometimes, how the world follows
its own rhythm and how nice it is to be in sync
with it. I was reminded of it when Marius asked
me to write a text for his show titled “Four Sea-
sons”, that will take place this month in a tem-
porary space he organized in the center of Biel.
Featuring a suite of large format paintings and
more intimate drawings on hotel stationary,
the exhibition comes at the beginning of a new
period for the world and marks a step in the
evolution of his painterly practice.

During an extended stay in Switzerland this
autumn I went to re-visit the museum of Franz
Gertsch in Burgdorf, where in a small room dug
deep into the structure, a group of four large
landscape paintings are hung. Titled “Four
Seasons” and laboriously executed in the tradi-
tion of photorealism, they each depict a quint-
essential moment of spring, summer, autumn
and winter. The scenes are all set in the forest,
and while the lights and colors strongly differ,
it’s the richness of nature and its complexity
that ties the work together and makes it one
of the most impressive painterly arrangements
and feats that I have ever seen.

Marius Steigers new paintings work differently,
an almost austere flora is set against hard edge
color fields that are slightly uncomfortable and
play on visual references from Blinky Palermo
to Olivier Mosset. (Palermo died in 1977, aged
33, on an island on the Maldives. What later in
the text turns out to be an ironic coincidence in
relation to this show.)

Simple but with great attention to detail nature
has been reduced, or is it enhanced ?, to 3D
renderings of plants and flowers that we could
encounter on our stroll in the forest. The light
that is shed upon them from an artificial sun
carries both a romantic notion as well as the
feeling of a lab and scientific progress. I think of
both Saturdays in the forest behind my home-
town and the emergence of genetic therapy in
the last years. Or the discovery of mushrooms
as super food, which replace coffee and get
micro-dosed for enhanced creativity.

The question of authenticity and artificiality,
of reality and fiction, continues in the smaller
works on paper.

Four Seasons also refers to the famous upscale
hotel chain, a brand which we encounter here
as the letterhead of new drawings on paper.
These works introduce a personal element and
narrative to the exhibition; A stay of the artist
on the Maldives. As I learn from Marius the
paper he used here, has been manufactured
after the original by digitally rebuilding the font,
logo and layout of the Maldivian Four Seasons
hotel. Thus, the drawings allude to and subvert
the assumption that art is autobiographical.
This also ties in well with recent developments
in fashion and art where the notion of the orig-
inal and brand value has become just another
element to be appropriated. At the same time it
plays on a long established trope in art history
of drawings made on hotel stationary which
goes all the way back to the impressionists, but
extends through Martin Kippenberger, Julian
Schnabel and George Condo into the today.

Now I can’t help but address a third way to look
at the work through the title of this exhibition:
On November 7, 2020, four days after the US
presidential election, the campaign of incum-
bent president Trump hosted a press confer-
ence in the back lot of “Four Seasons Total
Landscaping”, a hardware store in the outskirts
of Philadelphia. Located between a sex shop
and a car garage, the campaign missed the
hotel it meant to book by a few blocks only. This
incident turned the event which was aimed at
discussing the status of legal challenges to the
ballot-counting process in the state, into the
symbolic end of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Last week a new president has taken office
and brought a fresh breeze into the minds and
hearts of people. Vaccine development and
spread at the same time have raised the hopes
of a global spring and friends started to invite
me to weddings again scheduled for later this
year. As the seasons change the future looks
promising and I’m excited to start it with this

Text by Yves Scherer