I paint the common things, which surround me, and discover the exceptional, surprising within them. When I paint I’m an objective observer and there are no categories like beautiful or ugly: Everything holds it’s own soul and fascination. I never display persons. Rather I give some food for thought by showing what surrounds us. Thus, the paintings pose questions about our relationship towards the environment and nature and the function and aesthetics of the portrayed.
Often I work in series to explore a topic and to get as far as possible to the bottom of things, to the essential. Mostly, I paint without preliminary sketches. Through this direct and spontaneous approach and a fuzziness caused by swift brushstrokes I leave room for the observer’s own interpretation.
I regularly change formats and materials on which I paint. Whenever it seems appropriate I use traditional, rectangular canvases, or boards, but also irregularly shaped pieces of wood, metal, or other things found in the waste or on the streets. For example a part of my latest series was painted on plastic shopping bags, the series of plein-air paintings on the other hand are painted on square boards, which I sometimes cut.
In Montreal, I continue with a plein-air series that I started in Switzerland in 2012: I range the region by bike to find striking buildings. Once I found the right construction and spot, I paint directly at the spot with brush and easel. I’m particularly interested in individual and massive functional buildings and how they are embedded in their surroundings. Through the central positioning, and the focus on the subject the paintings get a portrait-like appearance. On the one hand, the urban or industrial themes are staying in strong contrast with the pronounced picturesque or even nostalgic treatment of the canvas, on the other hand, the viewer is additionally challenged by the unpretentiousness of format and presentation. All paintings can be seen on Google Maps – including the exact position where I painted them.
Birds on plastic bags…
In many grocery stores in Panama and Canada they will give you some of those thin, sometimes colorful plastic bags to pack your goods. Those bags are kind of a symbol for our huge waste production and the pollution by plastic.
I started to paint single birds exactly on those particular bags: Species that live in Panama are painted on bags I received in Panama and Canadian species on the Canadian bags.
On the colorful, thin, and transparent support media the oil paint – that sometimes tends to appear heavy – seems light. This fits the impression of those popular aerial inhabitants. But the ephemeral impression also hints at the imminent extinction of many of those birds.
On another larger composed painting there are the same protagonists to be found: Referring to collections of classical 19th century natural history museums I produced a diorama-like scenery with some of the most beautiful Panamanian birds sitting on a tree. But here, there are also plastic bags hanging on the branches – among other waste. The birds are lined up like in a museum or a zoological drawing, though it’s not entirely clear, whether they are alive or stuffed.
Stefan Auf der Maur was born 1979 in Lucerne, he lives and works in Basel, Switzerland. Currently, he is working in Montreal during a 1.5-year stay. He studied scientific illustration at the Zurich University of the Arts. Since 2008 he is participating regularly in group- and individual exhibitions.