Wilhelm Sasnal

Wilhelm Sasnal conjures up images that are on occasion both original and memorable, and yet they are often strikingly casual in their execution. When he states that painting is hard work it seems curiously at odds with the slight, almost breezy, results of his labour. How, you wonder when looking at them, does he know when a painting is finished, complete in his own terms?


This is less of a problem with the images drawn from photographs (Kacper & Anka 2009, above), which seem to resemble painted photographs, than with other less resolved paintings – a blank wall, a cursory head study - where he appears to be challenging the viewer to decide whether there is enough there to detain us or not. One painting (Untitled 2008) has been painted and rubbed down over the course of 7 days, leaving just a faintly drawn planet shape on a worn canvas surface. The unfinished work, he suggests, is finished when it returns to its own starting point. In this way he distances himself from the image, questioning not just the subject matter (apocalyptic or banal?) but also the very reason for painting it. By adopting many different approaches to paint, touching variously on photorealism, graphic design and abstract gestures, he disengages himself and the viewer from the medium and asks what the painting means and, simultaneously, what is the meaning of painting?

Wilhelm Sasnal, Whitechapel Gallery, until 1 January 2012