Jean-Frédéric Schnyder, born 1945 and living in Uttingen, Switzerland, is an artist who cannot be consigned to any pigeon-hole, for whom the disparity and discontinuity of his work has become vital. Schnyder once revealed that " I always had this dream of painting landscapes, of attempting this very old task, very real, within a normal daily routine: to set off with a small easel, lucky to paint a picture, and return home after a long day in the fresh air with a good appetite." Schnyder knows what he's talking about. Since 1982, he has travelled across landscapes with his bike and an easel strapped to his back, or by train with a subscription ticket of the Swiss railway. This led to 126 Bernese vedutate (1982/83) created on a daily basis; in 1988/89 the series Waiting-rooms and Benches followed.

Schnyder has in this manner exposed himself to an audience and their criticism for whom his work will always retain something exotic. But also for the more academically-trained art audience Schnyder's pictures remain somewhat enigmatic. How can someone devote himself with equal intensity to the Thun Lake, his dog Dritchi, three foam-rubber sponges, and paint a number of abstract pictures, and finally even dare to take up the theme of the Hänsel and Gretel fairy tale? Patrick Frey has given us a hint: only a person can do this, who has retained "this mixture of being true-to-life and having a profoundly doubting intelligence."

One must know that Schnyder began painting in oil very late and as an autodidact - something he stands to. Beforehand, at the end of the 60s and beginning of the 70s, he successfully produced works which can be associated with Pop Art and Conceptual Art. But then there was this love of normality, of life around us in all its ambiguity, its inscrutable differences in value, its heterogeneity and simplicity. All this is thematised in Schnyder's painting, and this makes him quite contemporary.

Jean-Frédéric Schnyder, even though he may be an old acquaintance for many, holds his first solo exhibition in a public German art hall with "Landschaft (Landscape)" at Portikus Frankfurt. Veiled behind the unsuspicious, title one discovers anything but just another chapter of conventional landscape painting. Instead, the cycle created in 1990/91 reveals the entire scope of Schnyder's art by exploring the depths of a specific contemporary state of consciousness.

Photos: Katrin Schilling