Marina Sawall

Pressure zone – red eyes

„Suspicious landscape“ – Heiner Müller

„…the more matter of fact, in the bright world of the day, the chore of reasonable adjustment, the louder the pounding of the Schizo-machines in the background “ – Thomas Wagner

The young Viennese painter Stylianos Schicho constantly perfects his skills. This allows him to transform the representation of reality in a manner that isn’t immediately striking. The rules of colour and form, which he learnt as a student of Herzig at the University for Applied Arts, are applied. They produce, in carefully considered composition, an impression of totality. Yet there is something in these pictures, perhaps it is the figures, that doesn’t allow for homogeneity, indeed that undermines it.
Supple, tense, the red eyes serious, standing or sitting, his figures are close together. Holding guns that can’t shoot, other than at slot machines in gaming halls, pushing trolleys, pulling weights, the figures seem captives of the horizontal. Yet something is odd. They exude a curious strangeness. Although they seem preoccupied with typical everyday or leisure activities.
Perhaps it is the impression that they don’t pay attention to what they are doing. Their gazes are directed at something beyond the edge. The faces seem close to the surface, as if the figures were stretching out of the canvas. Above all the eyes remind one, in their size, of the youthful Manga ideal of beauty. Yet the eyes, that Schicho has created, are by no means those of cute dolls, but rather express the fact that the actors have a load to carry, of uncertain weight, and are somehow under pressure. The size makes it possible to see that their eyes are red from continual exercise. Their mighty pupils perhaps over-play the fact that they have become expressionless.
They lie like neutral territory, embedded in the clearly contured forms and gently shimmering colours of Schicho’s carefully composed compositions, which hardly leave gaps. They permit closer observation; yet not necessarily an insight into the thoughts of the figures. As if they wanted to hide their feelings, distance themselves, protect themselves from our gaze, of which they simultaneously seem aware. They forget what keeps them in the horizontal, it slides backwards, downwards, is invisible. What they don’t directly touch, perhaps can’t completely command or control, loses its importance. The figures move closer together, almost completely obscuring the background, losing their feet. Like in close-ups in films, in which the facial expression and not the action is of importance. What is not clear though is whether Schicho wants us, like in the movies, to identify ourselves with his characters. All that can be written about, in such a text as this, is the visible. In this case it is by means of the noticeable hierarchy of picture elements that the actors are lifted out of their environment.
Stylianos Schicho has developed a unique technique of bringing the figures closer together, closer to the barrier between pictorial world and the world of the viewer. The apparent drawing closer is actually a tug of war of gazes. The gaze-strategist Schicho constructs a trial of strength between the viewer on the one side and the figures on the other. He seems to excite the eye by forcing it to make detours and by putting demands on it. He plays with the traditional habits of seeing, no longer permitting the viewer to feel secure in the classical position infront of the picture. Yet what is it, exactly, that irritates, what is it that makes the viewer refuse to adopt his practised role?
It is the perspective. It doesn’t start from the viewer. Instead it forces him to follow a predetermined path. His task of observing the action in the painting is already anticipated. He only follows the invisible eyes of a stranger. This variable is not clearly identifiable. On account of its position in the right corner of the upper edge it is reminiscent of CCTV. Schicho confirms this supposition, saying himself that his theme is society’s, that is: its member’s, addiction to self-surveillance. That is why his scenes are set exclusively in public spaces. These are „seeing spaces“, located between the private sphere and the (uncivilized) experience of the natural. Here nothing is hidden. Everything takes place infront of other people’s eyes. The artist himself is not excluded. He too is part of this society. He observes and is observed. Hence the figure in the pictures that resembles him. He becomes a member of the world of the mutually unmasked unmaskers. To which the viewer can count himself too.
By means of the imaginary camera’s top view of society, the cracks in the collective rules are made perceptible. Is this the answer to why Schichos’s pictures seem so mysterious? The strangeness that clings to his everyday scenes seen through the shifting perspective of an invisible observer.
Perhaps the strangest thing about the self-observing society is the society itself. The expression of suspicion. Everybody is a suspect and suspects his neighbour. Of course there are parallels to the current debate about terrorism but that is just an extended form of mutual supervision. It seems to be human nature to use exact observation as a means of survival. Just as we depend on others. The public order, with all its eccentricities, perhaps only makes us aware of the need to avoid loneliness and isolation by means of a network. Perhaps excessive observation is needed to avoid this net falling apart. This finds expression in the unceasing battle of gazes, in the search for recognition, without forfeiting the need for self-assertion.
At the end of the day what Schicho wants to show are extreme internal and external situations. What unites them better than the gaze that constructs space in his pictures, and thereby gives them their dynamism? The invisible yet uniting gaze, at the disposal of all members of society? Schicho uses it seemingly objectively in order to show everything from a perspective that is unusual for painting. Yet it is exactly the objective light in his pictures that makes one aware of attempts at adaptation and escape. The close-ups show red eyes, witnesses to the demands put upon this generation.