Norbert Bisky
Hell? Paradise!

published in Zoo Magazine No. 42, p. 61

If Brutalism was not an architectural style movement of the 1950s, the term could easily be applied as cipher for the shocking, sadistic and sexual paintings of Norbert Bisky. His canvases, rich in detail and color, depict romantic sceneries of beaches and forest resorts. Yet, his actors – well-toned, topless boy scouts – are caught in the act of slaughter and destruction. Heads are cut off, proudly presented as trophies. Torsos are smudged by blood and other bodily liquids. Regardless of the cruelty, Bisky's images exude a peaceful, almost happy mood. As if everything was alright.

In addition to these larger than life tableaus of contemporary consumerism, tourism and gay culture, the former master student of Georg Baselitz has lately devoted himself to a different painterly tradition. Since 2004, his motifs are paralleled in smaller, gestural water colors. Again, we witness postcard-ready beach scenes – this time less detailed and more distant. Actors and actions are only suggested. Similar to Japanese ink paintings the figures are reduced to little spots and lucid brush strokes.

Perspective and gravity seem suspended. The protagonists appear in smaller groups and constellations, almost floating and repeatedly arranged in wallpaper-like manner. Indeed, Bisky's images exude a peaceful, almost happy mood. As if everything was alright. On closer inspection, the cheerful Toile de Jouy scenes quickly reveal themselves as greetings of torture and cannibalism. Amputated legs and streaks of blood replace ice cream and sunscreen. This is not a regular beach club resort. The series, in its entity known as Paraisópolis, is an ironic interpretation of the homonymous 'paradise city' in the favela neighborhoods of São Paulo. Here, nothing is alright. The idyllic nature of white sand and turquoise sea functions as backdrop for humankind’s self-elimination. Using paradise as pastiche, Bisky paints realistic images of hell on earth. His illusionary intent is best visible in Masterplan (2007) – the portrait of a young man without lower extremities who is re-creating himself by applying color with a brush. By staging the process of painting as godly act, Norbert Bisky confidently declares the artist as the Almighty self – on hell and earth.