World Festival of Animated Film /
28 September to 3 October 2020
World Festival of Animated Film / 28 September to 3 October 2020
hr | en


Georges Schwizgebel: Master of Poetic Visions

Retrospective Exhibition

Galerija Kranjčar Gallery
28/9 – 2/10 Mon-Fri 12:00 – 19:00 h
3/10 Sat 12:00 – 15:00 h
Opening: 29/9 Tue 18:00 h

As a unique form of art connecting all other arts, animation has always been famed as the one coming closest to the term of the ideal Gesamtkunstwerk, i.e. a total art work.

Bringing drawings to life has been fascinating the human eye since the very first animations (before the appearance of film) until this day. From the basic visual components of drawing, colours, sculpture, to literature, music, acting, film language, theatre and comic, to dance and movement, as well as a broad range from minimalist lines against a white backdrop to lavish palettes in different 2D, 3D and stop-motion techniques, animation ‘narrates’ in a way other film genres and art forms cannot.

It is this connection between animation and classical visual arts like painting, print or architecture that Zagreb’s audience had a chance to see in last year’s theme programme Animation and Fine Arts, almost portending the name of this year’s winner of the prestigious Animafest Lifetime Achievement Award – the acclaimed Swiss author Georges Schwizgebel.

A filmmaker whose animated ‘images’ since the very beginning of his, now almost half a century long work, have incessantly infused themselves directly at the very source of art history and music, is the most awarded name in the history of Animafest Zagreb, counting as many as seven awards and three special mentions.

The Zagreb audience had a chance to see his works in a retrospective programme exactly ten years ago, when the 20th edition of Animafest presented Swiss animation, and even then it was quite clear why he was called a great master of ‘moving images’. Today, ten years later, he finally wins Animafest’s most important award, the Lifetime Achievement Award, which will be accompanied by another retrospective of the Masters of Animation. Georges Schwizgebel arrives at the 30th Animafest as an extremely fruitful and interesting visual artist whose works are exhibited in a classical gallery context.

Just like his films, all but one based on the elegance of line and movement and the timeless beauty of music as one of the director’s most important inspirations – the one defining the pace and setting his images in motion, despite mutual differences display the recognisable strength of poetic visions, while his drawings, paintings and sketches in a gallery space confirm that Schwizgebel is the sort of artist whose pieces live an equally happy life in the darkness of a movie theatre as in the light of a classical exhibition display in a gallery context.

Profoundly and permanently anchored in the beauty of visual expression, not interested in advanced computer techniques, i.e. sophisticated software tools developed over time to provide filmmakers with unimaginable opportunities, insisting on an old school approach to painting and drawing on foil, Schwizgebel consciously enjoys the somewhat anachronous, traditional creativity. Considering himself both an artist and an artisan, from the very beginning he has quite clearly maintained the position of an old school master who imagines and creates in an everlasting aspiration to attain a total work of art.

In a broad creative spectrum, from his first film The Flight of Icarus (1974), in gouache on foil technique, breeding a peculiar pointillist arabesque stemming from baroque music of Francois Couperin, to the more recent tiles like Erlking (2015) and Battle of San Romano (2017), still hand-painted on foil, Schwizgebel pays a loud and clear respect to a long series of his favourite artists from the history of painting. Be it his earlier pieces like Le sujet du tableau (The Subject of a Picture, 1989) and Retouches (2008), leaning in terms of inspiration on his favourite painters like Michelangelo, Vermeer, Matisse, Bonnard, Constable, Corot, Charding, Ingres, Friedrich, Beckman, De Chrico, Hopper or Marquet whose artistic appearances and dispositions he identifies as close and understandable, be it that brings them to life in a more literal way like in the already mentioned Battle of San Romano (2017), in whose very title he imbues life into the famous classical renaissance piece by Paolo Uccello, Schwizgebel constantly creates along the lines of evaluation of the traditional artistic creativity. The one enjoying the luxury of conscious exposure to influences and inspirations and a prolonged incubation time during which the author’s creative impulse, ennobled with the context of time and space, will yield a new work of art. Asked once to summarise the main impacts on his work, the filmmakers very clearly and without a second thought put music first, and then movement and image, and only then narrative in the end. In that sense, classical music, more than anything else, is his omnipresent, incessant and eternal inspiration, as well as subject, as evident from the films Ride to the Abyss (1992) based on Hector Berlioz’s opera, Romance (2011) inspired by Rachmaninov’s sonata, or Erlking (2015) based on Goethe’s classic to the music of Schubert and Liszt. Never as mere illustration or simple explanation of what he animates on the screen; quite the contrary, in a creative and almost maieutic function, images are born inspired by its forms, rhythm and pace. For image is, to Schwizgebel, equivalent to a music piece. As he stated on many occasions, be it 78 Rotations per Minute (1985) or Play (Jeu, 2006) synthesising fragments from his previous films, what moves his newly constructed worlds is always the most elevated and the most abstract of them all – music. Not inclined to explications and dialogue, but extremely obsessed with the imagination potential of music shaping his dreamlike and expressively painted experiential worlds, he creates his works in different techniques he then combines. From oil, pastels, gouache and acrylic, to cut-out, he often deliberately juxtaposes all the techniques to underline the visual differentiations in changes of narrative parts and layers.

The exhibition of Georges Schwizgebel at the Kranjčar Gallery as part of the side vent of the 30th World Festival of Animated Film Animafest Zagreb is therefore an extraordinary exhibition. Not only for the fact that it puts on display 60 paintings, drawings and sketches the artist has personally selected as the most representative examples of his cinematic oeuvre, finally winning the biggest and most prestigious festival award – the lifetime achievement award, but most of all because this exhibition might be the best and illustratively clearest unmasking of the process behind the mastery of the great animation filmmaker who, perhaps more than any other from this world, builds his work consciously and committedly on the grounds of a particular and rich visual erudition and rare musical disposition.

List of Works:
34 images from 13 films:
    • L'Vol d'Icare, 1974
    • 78 tours, 1985
    • Le sujet du tableau, 1989
    • La course à l'abîme, 1992
    • L'année dud aim, 1995
    • Zig Zag, 1996
    • Fugue, 1998
    • La jeune fille et les nuages, 2000
    • L'homme sans ombre, 2004
    • Jeu, 2006
    • Retouches, 2008
    • Romance, 2011
    • Chemin faisant, 2012
26 sketches and paintings from:
    • Erlking, 2015