Philipp Schack . Experienced Counter Worlds
In the works of the young Berlin painter and graphic artist Philipp Schack (born1967) an archaic primeval experience seems to repeat itself which is beyond our expectations in the real world, where even the most remote corners of the earth can now be considered accessible to tourism. Schack's powerful visions of fantastic counter worlds enable us to return to the times of the great discoveries of unknown continents. How must European seafarers have felt when they first set foot on the American continents, or explorers who departed on uncertain journeys into the depths of Africa, entering fascinating worlds hitherto unknown to them and meeting people whose rites and rituals, magic and spirits were unlike anything they had previously experienced?

Yet by the early 19th century it had become clear that real primeval experience at such locations would remain inaccessible to the artist of modern times. No one less than the south sea voyager Paul Gauguin had had to face up to this, ultimately admitting with resignation: "Tahiti - that is the Europe from which I had thought to have freed myself." An alternative for many artists was to dedicate themselves to their own unexplored inner worlds. It became a matter of artistically producing these worlds in spontaneous gestures, a process still practiced by the German neo-expressionists, the Neue Wilden, or of articulating them in a meditative perception of the emotions.

Philipp Schack is also an artistic explorer of our times. Nevertheless, the path he has chosen does not rely on the spontaneity of chance or on irrational moods, but on the expression of an imagination which has been brought under control by artistic rationality and aesthetic criteria.

Predominantly in oils, his intensely colorful canvases present mysterious beings, between man and beast, hybrid creatures, male and female in one. These figures have been woven into their environment to form an expressive artistic unity. It is a world which in reality does not exist and yet seems to make sense, obeying its own inner laws.

The striking, poignant figures plunge us into another world with unfamiliar rules and regulations. They give off something mysterious and at times a feeling of tense contradiction. Yet they do not try to express symbolic and metaphorical contents related to our own life spheres. And the strong presence of colors, for the most part filling the entire canvas, does not limit itself to merely setting off associations of transient daydreams. Rather, consciously constructed fantasies are articulated that demand a more lasting existence. Are we not, in fact, dealing here with exactly those expectations which motivated former seafarers and explorers to set out to new worlds previously beyond their reach?

Philipp Schack has a great spectrum of creative talents and skills at his disposal. After attending evening classes at the Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee and following the legendary fall of the Berlin Wall, he enrolled in a five-year study program for painting there. He was especially influenced by the instruction he received from such diverse artistic personalities as professors Dieter Goltzsche and Wolfgang Peuker; ultimately he became the latter's master-class student. Confronted with the traditions of the Leipzig school of painting, with which Wolfgang Peuker is associated, Schack above all achieved greater overall clarity and stability in the figurative and compositional design of his works. He did not, however, adopt the socio-critical and historicizing approach typical for the Leipzig school. Through the Berlin artist Dieter Goltzsche, Schack was greatly encouraged to explore his sense of color and give his fantasy ample scope.

One color usually dominates the scheme in his paintings and in turn determines the prevailing mood and the other colors. Schack's palette includes colors ranging from an expressive, defiant red, to icy nuances of blue and gray, and a grim black which serves to highlight certain elements while delineating others within the overall compositional balance. The carefully developed form, which has its foundations in the figural elements, is a product of a long and extended artistic process marked by ever-increasing reduction.

Moreover Schack's fondness for oils works well with this process as the extremely slow drying procedure forces him to deal with the subject of each picture longer. The enigmatic figures, which often trigger associations of gnomes, gods and totems, act as a basic framework, giving the entire composition both stability and an expressive strength. This dramatic strength is intensified by coarse and awkward shapes. At times the forceful fantastic figures appear to move beyond the picture frame. Nonetheless, due to the artist's intent to create an aesthetic composition, they never seem to run wild.

No matter how surprising it may seem at first glance, the astonishingly sophisticated work of this young artist signalizes a remarkable position that can be understood as a response to the dynamic world of today. In the age of networking and globalization, which no longer seems to have any mysteries in store for us, but only spectacular pseudo-events, the artist reminds us of the independent imagination each of us has inherited. He presents us with an example of a counter world designed to accommodate one's own aesthetic needs. Yet with its vital inner strength, Schack's art does not advocate a backward-looking romanticism at odds with the present, but stands for the expansion and enrichment of human awareness.

Prof. Dr. Erhard Lange
Schack walks the tightrope between abstraction and representation. He is not interested in pure abstraction, but in exploring the realm between reality and fiction. During the painting process, which he perceives as a journey into himself and as an immersion in colors, a baroque wealth of figurations comes into being, a wealth which he then reduces to one or two figures which transcend the polarity of gender. Everything on his intensely colorful, large canvases is pending and subject to constant metamorphosis. Hybrids of animals and humans, as well as demons and plant elements blend in highly original frenzies of form and color. Some of Schack's paintings are reminiscent of the Cobra artists, especially of Asger Jorn: they have a similarly rough and expressive quality, and contain equally monstrous and outlandish figurative representations, while still possessing lyrical qualities which immediately enchant the viewer.

Nourished, among other things, by the culture of Latin American Indians, Schack's modern totemism is splendidly alive and directly addresses the viewer's innermost being: at times the primitivistic figures appear to leap out of the paintings towards the viewer, at other times, a maelstrom of colors seems to pull him into the picture world. The works require, indeed demand, the viewer's emotional and physical involvement. But to the same degree as Schack's paintings are marked by gesture, spontaneity, and experiment, their composition is not left to chance: with an extreme sensitivity for the effect of color, and a strong sense of composition, Schack creates coarse, earthy picture worlds that teem with fantasy beings and archetypal signs. His art is highly suggestive and leaves room for the most diverse associations without being anecdotal or attempting to illustrate preconceived ideas. Born of subjective feelings, his paintings ultimately exemplify something universally human. His dream visions do not have the excessively literary, intellectual emphasis of the surrealists, but rather the aggressive verve and forceful authenticity of the northern expressionists. Moreover, all forms of showiness are alien to Schack. Instead he continuously experiments, re-assessing his picture creations as to their necessity. The logic inherent to each painting arises directly from its color fabric and the creative process forming it. Lively imagination and dynamic style harmonize masterly, and the resulting poignant presence of Schack's works makes him a tremendously promising young painter.

M. M. Burgenhagen