Christian Schumann

Christian Schumann Meanwhile Pops Busted His Gears....,
1993. Acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 60 x 72 inches.
Courtesy: Postmasters Gallery
My initial use of language within a visual context has to have occurred with some really bad attempts at drawing comics. The language within comic panels consists mainly of highly dramatic exclamations and soap opera-like dialogue. Being too young to understand the potential of this, I dropped the comics thing and moved on to plain old drawing and stuff, keeping writing as an entity separate but equal to the visual world.

Later on, I discovered concrete poetry. A typical example of that would be a page of typed lowercase e's in neat little symmetrical rows commanding some sort of annihilation of language and purpose of meaning/existence in general. Not being too interested in this although intrigued by the use of words and letters as a visual object I began to install words in my painting, sometimes going as far as putting a little comic book style the top left hand corner of a piece. As time progressed, this got a bit more sophisticated, sometimes turning into a parody of field painting (a yellow block of words on half of a canvas, a plain color field on the other with one tiny allusive image stuck in the middle of the emptiness).

I've never been able to write a lengthy story, for some reason my writing skills only last for about a page before things get boring. As a result of this, I condense everything into a block of words; a paragraph-long tale of some twisted event or a toxic rant. Nowadays this will end up on a painting surface, a clot of words amongst a bunch of scribbles and drawings. This references the idea of words as abstraction.

Language in the form of words on the page is abstraction, and to someone who can't read whatever it is on the canvas, it really is abstraction; nothing more than a bunch of tiny marks. To someone who can read it, the words reference something, in my case something highly evocative (hopefully). When I use a single word, I try to use one which retains some sort of poetic depth. For example: 'octopus' or 'Burma,' perplexing mysterious words. This holds a slight kinship to the wordplay of Frank Stella's earlier painting titles like "Coney Island." The texts I create are either complicated rants or dramatic and simplistically psycho-sexual stories whose plots are derived from 1950's science fiction movies. The rants' construction is stream of consciousness blurbs influenced initially by Burroughs, Bataille and the ramblings of schizophrenics. Also in the midst of all the chicken-scratching and random imagery I write whatever comes to mind down as well, sometimes a song lyric or something a friend says to me while I'm working, other times a list of obscurities or whatnot.

The use of words and texts for me is an act concurrent with painting images and even scribbling on paper. It is all a form of abstract language. They are all communications.

There is also an issue of texts creating another dimension to a painting, one of the imagination of the viewer/reader being utilized. Reading a story on a painting creates a sort of dimensional hole, the viewer/reader's mind is forced to act and the text is replaced by their memory of what they imagine the story to look like. So when they move on with their freshly activated minds to looking at a couple of concurrent scribbles, where does that take them? The field of the painting becomes one of imaginary dimensional depths varying in quality depending on each viewer's comprehension and personal interest in the work. In this way a poetic depth becomes a tool to create an actual formal depth within the painting.

Christian Schumann is a painter whose work is shown at the Postmasters Gallery and other fine venues. He is available for weddings and Bar Mitzvahs.


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