“Over an Apéro on the Gardasee, a journalist friend explained Peter Sloterdijk’s bubble theory to me. It was a mild evening late in the summer. The mood was subdued. We wore our shirts half open. Small black insects moved industriously through the cracks of our traveling ship. At regular intervals, a Romanian waiter served us Crémant, strawberry parfaits, and other treats from the kitchen. Sloterdijk had written an anthropology of the spherical, which had been forgotten and replaced with technical prosthetics.According to Sloterdijk’s theory, each person lives in an intimate bubble so that society might be figured as a shimmering froth, in which every bubble determines the ones around it.”
Ralph Schuster is interested in the circulating, aggregate condition of feelings in the lukewarm climates of modernity or post-modernity, to which Sloterdijk would most like to return. He collects memories of human interactions, icons, and snippets of conversation, and he observes the waves that they produce: the tingling that must dissipate pursuant to its nature; the foam that remains after the water recedes; the essence in the sediment. In circular movements, he draws overlapping figures and condenses his observations until one motif drips into the next. They are seemingly frozen from movement, recalling the languid forms of a lava lamp. His lines and flat compositions often do not betray what is outside, inside, background, or motif. Each of his planes of color equally requires the layers of stains and thin acrylic paint and is, in principle, synonymous—perpetually changing with the one who views it. Without one plane of color, the other would not exist. Yin and yang.
With his paintings on wood panels, Schuster pursues the “found” quality of these associatively chosen forms—but he also does so in adapting and exceeding the pictorial space following the painting process by cutting and re-applying material to the compositions. The cut-off remainder of a cropped image can then turn into an image in its own right. In this meandering practice, the line between positive and negative forms becomes blurred. Values are not firmly assigned and are necessarily always shifting. Schuster’s newest works transmit illustrations from books onto large-scale paintings on canvas. Condensed through reduction or superimposition and inflated in their dimensions, they carry a diffuse tension, submerged in the washed out colors of last summer. Schuster’s paintings are not windows opening onto a world. They do not illustrate with grand gestures. They are pressure chambers, which compress memories and impressions, thereby whisking the set pieces of everyday pop aesthetics: cigarettes, comic animals, cars, and arabesque forms that might also be reminiscent of the Nike swoosh. Hands repeatedly intervene. Only at first glance are the shapes cute and pleasant. Behind their cool, friendly exterior, they also shut themselves off from the viewer’s gaze. They are just as much vessels of color. The paintings are stored as something between figurative and abstract like images on the retina. They do not want to evaluate anything, but rather watch, track, enter, and emerge.