Thursday 25. October to Thursday 28. February 2019

Visionary Future

Zoé Byland & Walter Wetter

Opening Reception / Vernissage: Thursday 25. October 2018 18:00

VISIONARY FUTURE The latest exhibition at The Trace Gallery brings together Zoé Byland, a Vienna-based artist from Bern who showed previously at the gallery in late 2014, and Appenzeller-born artist Walter Wetter. For both artists historic portraiture is the starting point for investigations into aesthetic collisions across time that create stimulating frissons from unexpected contrasts.  When we look at studio portrait photography from the early 20thcentury we are struck by the artificiality of the people’s poses, by the flat, unconvincing backdrops and standard-issue props. These pictures remind us of the ignorance of previous generations. Ignorance is bliss, as the saying goes – these people did not know the stresses of our globalized, networked, social media-obsessed societies. But we are also reminded of past ignorance: of inequality, of rigidly paternalistic societies and many other injustices. Are some of the values of the past worth reviving nonetheless? A century ago, objects and machines were built to last, for example. Resources were valued. People spent more time having their picture taken and must have been more patient than we are today. These pictures also demonstrate a respectful formality in social life – could we revive these values?   Walter Wetter is by day a sound technician for the Swiss national broadcaster. For several decades he has also been making industrial art: large sculptural assemblages which frequently involve musical elements. At The Trace Gallery he is showing a less familiar facet of his artistic practice, small collages within found picture frames. Every element of these works has been sourced from a flea market in Switzerland or further afield. Wetter is drawn to the frames, but sometimes equally to the photographs he finds inside them. The frames are restored and an added graphic layer overlaid on the photographs inside – black diagrams which he has found in historic publications on subjects such as space travel, astronomy, astrology and alchemy. The relationship between diagrams and the photographs is never quite clear: it could be that the diagram explains or predicts something illustrated in the human subject; maybe it shows an unseen formulaenergy fields.  Zoé Byland’s contemporary paintings and print works are infused with the aesthetics of historic portraits. Nonetheless, each one is impossible, for they have been possessed by otherworldly forces or creatures. Birds fly past like omens or hauntings which the subjects do not seem to notice. Beams of light shine eerily out of the eyes of animal and human sitters. Or sometimes the details are simply anachronistic: a lady in Victorian dress wears band badges from the 1990s and blows a gum bubble. Another series shows wild animals with what look like tattoos in their fur. These almost religious, noble animal images – reminiscent of Aslan, the fictional lion god of Narnia – are covered in pop cultural iconography.  The works by Byland and Wetter both revive images and ideas from the past. Yet they also depict future realities, as if space travel has been more than a dream. They make us think of innocence and of aspiration. And they make us miss our lost innocence.  

Artwork Exhibition