On the Apparently Placeless

By Nicola Graef (2011)

His interiors appear empty of life, lost. Places without location, a silent standstill. Houses appear, trees, landscapes. Here and there a hedge, a pool, a wall, not much more. The places depicted are dark, almost uncanny, and they seem to hint at something more than themselves. It's almost as if the houses are standing in the midst of nothingness, as memorials to an idea of life, a surrogate human environment. But this idea of life is not alive; it has passed through. What remains is only the idea that it was perhaps once present. What becomes apparent? The landscapes with the houses are arranged, sorted, positioned. Trees line up together; like pearls on a chain, they are situated; houses sit as if in a model landscape-a harmonious choreography, and yet disaffected. The frequent choice of a high vantage point makes everything appear small, miniaturized, unreal. The pictures delineate more an assembly than a description of the world. It's more about an identification of a world than its meaning. "00:36 h" (1998), "Parole" (1999), "Fabrik" (2000), or "Gelände" (2001) testify not to the conditions of human existence, but rather to an objective situation.

It is in this way that the series "Siedlung" (2003) has no remnant of a human connection. These are planned developments, model buildings, and ghost towns. What is left behind is only the name, "Siedlung"- settlement. Yet as a viewer, one would rather not know exactly what is going on behind the closed-up windows. It is the recurrence of an endless monotony, a dreadful monotony. Sid Gastl's works are ambivalent: the arrangement of space causes anxiety, but also wistfulness at the same time. Are these pictures menacing? Could be. Are they ironic? Could be. But Sid Gastl is no cynic. He makes loss perceptible, his pictures highlight a silence that leaves its traces behind. The atmospherics generate a certain poetry that is never intrusive, let alone loud. "Garten" (2004), "Zimmer" (2004), "Park" (2004) -memories, dreams, and phantasms. Hushed, careful, without overconfidence.

"Let me freeze to death" (2007)-again houses, but ever more inaccessible. A state of shock has covered everything, frozen in lifelessness. All is displaced, removed, dissociated. It is about an oversight, an insight, a surrender of sight. But there is something else that pushes its way into the picture. That is this light, this glow, which emanates from the pictures, that defies the engagingly gloomy atmosphere. It's as if someone was looking for something with a large flashlight, even if only a shadow; a shadow that suggests being, authenticity. The light nourishes the hope that not everything here is pure suggestion. It creates light and dark, and concentrates the atmosphere.

More and more concentration. In the series "Zustand der Ãœberprüfung" (2008), everything that definitively indicates humanity is volatilized. Thick forest, tree on tree, ramifications, strains. Nature reclaims its territory. Abstraction gains weight, light plays an ever-diminishing role. "Zustand der Ãœberprüfung"-"State of the Examination"-that sounds rather governmental than forest-like; it doesn't have the scent of pine wood: there's something that needs investigation here, something that has little to do with a hunters' greeting, fairy tales, or the realm of myth. Here it's about a correction, a comparison of what the forest is; and what forest imports, what it could mean. Once more, it's about an idea of something, something that we call forest. In the series "Raum" (2010), Sid Gastl goes a step further, or back-for we see inside the houses for the first time. An unveiling of these dwellings: chairs, a carpet, drapes. Sid Gastl ventures a look inside, attempting to unravel the mystery behind the closed windows. But the sense of nothingness also finds a form in these interiors. These are no empty rooms, no dead rooms; they are simply abandoned, left-behind. Sid Gastl is a painter who trusts in pictures. More so, it seems, than in people. His works stand for themselves, they are there. What he doesn't need to put a picture, the picture itself needs: the viewer, people. As a corrective, as an observer, as an investigator, and as somebody who should pay attention to what they see and what they think they see. To examine where they themselves stand. In the end what remains is what is leftover: loneliness. Aloneness. To be alone.
To be.