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Heinz Schielmann’s Digital Terror

Words:

Edd Norval
October 1, 2021

Heinz Schielmann’s portraits are doused with a sense of horror and dread. Ranging from roughly strewn on a page with thick brushstrokes of oil to edited archival images, through the digital manipulation of his subjects, the artist helps them realise their true psychological potential.

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Horror is a cerebral phenomenon. The things that arouse fear within us tend to be the unseen, not the seen. Therefore, it is with a psychological force that Schielmann’s portraits come to life, not just what they do show, but likewise, what they don’t. 


The ways in which the images are manipulated is on a sliding scale - from slightly, to an almost unrecognisable figure, evoking, intentionally or not, the various stages of mental or terminal illness, as a person’s physical and mental state deteriorates to the point of being unrecognisable. It seems that the horror we feel emanates from the subject. We experience suffering through them.

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But, what causes his subject's horror? This is the mysterious question that burns in the mind of the audience, the essence of the horror itself. We can imagine, but we don’t know. Our imaginations, as is always the case, leaps towards the conclusion at the extremity of any scale. Reality, on the other hand, pales in comparison. What did happen or is happening plays second fiddle to a disturbing accumulation of all of the films we’ve seen and stories we’ve heard.


Besides the oil on canvas style of art, some of his pieces loo more like digital renderings, utilising pre-existing images created by artists that Schielmann collaborates with, before he pulls them apart with various tools, reinterpreting them in the same way a music producer would with originals - highlighting certain elements, redistributing others.

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In the end, the finished product can range from similar, but different, to entirely unrecognisable. Schielmann’s ability to identify and accentuate particular characteristics are a rare gift. It’s one thing to create work from a blank, another to conjure up something worthy from an already impressive piece of art. Two outcomes that require completely different skillsets. 


Schielmann weaves his own narrative into something preexisting, telling his own stories through the works of others. In doing so, his works have become recognisable in their own right, infusing unknown elements of horror into images that would otherwise hold its emphasis elsewhere. For as long as there’s art being created, it’s in contention to be made into something slightly more grotesque by Schielmann.

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