George Schwarz - Vita Brevis Est
Exhibition: 5 March to 5 April, 2008
George Schwarz is an artist with a substantial exhibition history (four shows at Stills Gallery since 1992) and is well known for supporting other artists through many years of teaching at the now College of Fine Arts (since 1973). His new work Vita Brevis Est bears much of the imprint of earlier work in its poetic heartfelt style, yet every image is totally fresh. The sentiments are openly expressed in the title (it translates as Life is Short) and this too is reminiscent of previous work, which has always held the pang of time having passed and of moments recollected through representations of people and places recreating mood.
Schwarz aptly declares his intentions. "These images come to me unbidden and speak for themselves in a sort of visual poetry, or songs without words. They approximate the dreams and visions making up the texture of my days; occupying the spaces between clear brilliant austerity, muted shades of the past and the beautiful sombre nuance of the real". One of his outstanding skills is the ability to define experience as a combination of the present and a yearning for the past through the residue of memory.
The significance of photography as a device to record time is central to many of the images, which include old photographs, of portraits and places. These images, which undoubtedly have personal meaning for the artist, function as vernacular images for the viewer suggesting the past in a particularly poignant way through the vestiges of someone else's life. Schwarz twice uses a kind of dissolve or reflection as if the image is bathed in water creating a visceral sensation conveying emotion.
Influenced by surrealism, the subconscious world of dreams, by poetry and music, Schwarz still embraces the techniques of photo assemblage, which are now made simpler through digital methods. To approach an understanding of these works you must come with your heart open as they speak directly to the emotions.
George Schwarz most recent exhibition was Highlights of the Road (Stills Gallery 2004). For this exhibition Schwarz and his partner Charis self published a book in an edition of 1000 of their motorcycle travels through all continents of the world from 1965 to 1968. The edition sold out and the entire profit was donated to St Vincents Hospital to establish a Motor Cycle Accident Rehabilitation Initiative (MARI). The other exhibitions shown previously at Stills Gallery are Items (1992), Relics (1994) and Recuerdos (2002). Schwarz has been exhibiting since 1957 and his work is widely collected and published.