Vast grey walls loom expressionless above the cityscape. It's hard to tell what they're for - to keep people in or to keep people out. Of all the synonyms that we could use for them, homely is rarely one. It's this phenomenon, housing that isolates rather than integrates, that Guido Zimmermann explores in his art.
His subject matter - the identikit concrete buildings that house so many people throughout Europe, are often more associated with former Communist countries, particularly the Soviet Bloc. Zimmermann, a German artist, is reminding us that these faceless representations of control and oppression are a lot closer to home. He doesn't want us to forget that Europe has also been there.
These facades stand in stark opposition to art. One thing, despite the style of art being produced, that runs through an artist's body is a longing for freedom. These buildings, monochromatic and sharp-angled, are standing in the way of liberty. Everyone inside has, or once had, a dream. The buildings inhabitants all laugh, cry, dance and sing in the shower. That there is anything alive inside these grey shells would be impossible to tell. They are a subtle form of oppression over the individual, one that Zimmermann has chosen to combat.
To do so, he's used the kryptonite of the regimes that erected them - colourful expression. It's unique to see his pieces in the wild - they seem random and out of context. It is this decontextualisation that gives them strength, The pieces give people the gift to wonder once again - to dream, to sing and to be free.
His rough style isn't framed like regular pieces of street art. Usually we expect the pieces to have neat edges with a well-defined background. Zimmermann's are instead sprawling expressions of emotion. The paintings are blurred and out-of-focus, spread out across the facades as if he has waved a giant brush and it left behind a glorious mark.
The effect is that the process is something of a collaboration - between art and architecture, between artist and architect. The final product is a symbiotic relationship of two contrasting ideas - one defined by a purists idealism, the other by more dangerous ideologues. There is beauty in brutalism, but it takes time to become accustomed to it. It's a frequency that balances on a hairline.
Zimmermann isn't immune to their attraction. So much of his art is based on these buildings that it cannot simply be done as a noble act to combat his revulsion. The character that shines through in his works is a true explosion - kinetically captured as it tears across the right-angled blocks. The people inside are reminded, even if momentarily, that it's okay to live, not just to simply be alive. These rooms aren't just a house, they're people's homes.
Despite the dramatic effects of his painting work, it was a cuckoo-clock that captivated the people of the internet. Germany's iconic Black Forest cuckoo clocks are at the opposing end of the architectural sliding-scale. These buildings are higgledy-piggledy, askew, uneven and emotive. They're the quintessential clock for the eccentric recluse or fans of antique oddities. To Zimmermann, they were the perfect subject to be incorporated into his evolving understanding of the socio-economic symbolism of the Brutalist apartments.
His cuckoo clocks don't have bells hanging, but are instead weighed down by aggressive objects - either vast blocks of concrete or grenades. His buildings are rough replicas of iconic buildings from Frankfurt and Berlin, especially the Glenkerry House by Ernő Goldfinger. The effect of the juxtaposition between the two conflicting architectural styles is a biting piece of social commentary. These buildings represent routine and serve as no more than cages for people serving in the rat-race, trying one again to feel. Every hour, every day. Same shit, different pants.
Zimmermann has allowed his earlier forays into street art to develop into more conceptual pieces that are capable of saying a lot with a little. His understanding of conflicting societal behaviours and beliefs gives him a fertile field on which to create his work. That freedom is at the heart of everything he does gives people the hope that one day their bird not only sing, but fly away.
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