Werner von Mutzenbecher was born in 1937 in Frankfurt am Main, lives in Basel, and taught from 1973 to 2000 at the Basel School of Design. He refers to himself as a painter who makes films, but not for cinema.
Just like his paintings, his experimental films are not intended to achieve illusionary effects. He does not want to tell tales but work with ‘pictures’. For the exhibition Filmmaker’s Afternoon, Painter’s Night, his movies, screened as part of Das Londoner Filmprogramm (The London Film Program) and Das KHBL Filmprogramm (The Kunsthaus Baselland Film Program), such as Basel Untergrund (Basel Underground) are contrasted with his most recent paintings. The show focuses on the connections between these to media. In von Mutzenbecher’s paintings we see a predominance of hand-painted lines that make the actual picture and its geometrical formations flicker — this adds a cinematic dimension to his works. Two figurative pictures, taken from Piero della Francesca’s paintings and reduced to their linear core, are linked to von Mutzenbecher’s abstract pictures by means of their specifically traced lines. In the film Basel Untergrund the artist’s composition follows a geometric array and a mathematical rhythm. A person ‘walks into’ a four-part projection of cutout pictures taken in Basel in four different versions. This person is captured from the back by the projected pictures crossing in the midriff area. In the last sequence of the film, the person glances back at the viewer, and the white facial mask shrouds the events that are unfolding in an uncanny and absurd aura. Like numerous early films made by von Mutzenbecher, this work offers a psychological angle, and despite its highly precise composition, the prevailing atmosphere is dominated by this dimension. The artist’s paintings and films, concentrating on the essentials in their style, colors, rhythm, and composition, keep on expressing, in varying forms, media- and topic-specific aspects.
Text from Sabine Schaschl