SOFT WAVES SPLASH AWAY IN THE HORIZON. TWO WOMEN, BENT OVER IN SHALLOW WATER, MOVE ABOUT SLEEK, WET, SHINY ROCKS COVERED IN MOSS LOOKING FOR MUSSELS – YOUNG, BEAUTIFUL, THE BREEZE LIFTING THEIR HAIR AND SKIRTS. AN ALLURING IMAGE FOR THE HEAVENLY CALM IT EXUDES, SO DISTANT FROM OUR TECHNOLOGICAL WORLD, SEEMINGLY PLUCKED FROM A 5-STAR TRAVEL CATALOGUE.
Artist Philipp Weber plays with our perceptions. A perception that has been trained to see only what lies before it, used to judge and categorise within a matter of seconds. At a first glance this image resembles a posterlike surface of a glossy advertisement, yet upon looking closer reveals itself to be a large hyperrealistic oil painting, transposing a painting technique dominated by the masters of old to our contemporary artistic world. The content of these paintings move between clichéd settings featuring beautiful young women and the attempt to capture their inner core. ‘Beauty is alluring,’ claims Philipp Weber. ‘It opens your eyes, attracts your attention and, in the best case scenario, awakens your curiosity when looking a second time.’ It is that second glance which sets the irritations and dichotomies in the works of the artist free. ‘In my works I care about the second layer, about what hides behind the seemingly flat surface.’
The hippie girls from the 2015/16 series New Birth hint to a luxury resort radiating an esoteric aura; at the same time, the pictures take you on a journey to the deepest human longing for something unspoken, original, unspoilt: to a flawless new start.
My type of painting is essential to me, just like my independence from quickly changing models and fast-paced working methods.
The Bless series alone from 1011/12 features ‘water’ as a theme of purification and healing. Film stills taken out of context show different scenes of a young woman rising from the water of a lake, while rivulets and drops – painted in complete transparency – run across her (Bless 3 – Antonia). Another picture shows her standing still on the shore, surrounded by a valuable shimmering deep red veil. We involuntarily associate Bless 6 – Antonia with representations of the Virgin Mary and saints from Christian art. However, Antonia is a sensual being, yes, even erotic to a certain extent, when you consider her scantly covered body: the alluring shadows around her breast and loin, the full and somewhat raw lips reminiscent of Angelina Jolie. Holy or depraved? A spicy mix which is transversal across all history of art in the West and can be seen in many different guises even today, not least in the glossy and beautiful light of advertisements. At the same time, the representation evades with its invasive presence the traditional expectations of what women should look like: the deep red of the veil represents love and passion in western symbolism but also blood and martyrdom. The hair of the woman is damp and tangled; wounds on her forehead and collarbone stand out. The series depicts a gamut of emotions, from pain, healing, suffering to hope, an element conveyed by the multifaceted meaning of its name, Bless. ‘The representation of water as epitome of life and renewal plagues me. It’s the heart of the series that I’m currently working on,’ explains the painter. He doesn’t reveal more.
The works of Philipp Weber create a tension between vicinity and distance, production and identity. He emphasises the ideal picture of a woman, shaped by our culture, the hackneyed female functions in a series of images: Rivalinnen (2009), Creatura (2010) or Bless (2012) in cooperation with professional models. By placing her in a vehemently broken reality, he gives the forms an elevated symbolic power, radiating a powerful mood hinting to patterns within our culture as well as within our contemporary pictorial worlds. A further counterpoint is created by including the name of the women in the titles of the paintings. The models don’t pause in their function of being objects of contemplation, rather underpin the production of the artist’s works, as they’re real people within the staged space. Time and again a limitation of content and techniques appears that makes Philipp Weber stand out as a hyperrealist: he doesn’t look for an exact copy but wants to reproduce an excess of reality depicting the inner soul of objects. ‘Hyperrealism to me doesn’t only mean painting a barrage of details, but an onslaught of feelings.’
Philipp Weber was born in 1974 in Rostock, in the former German Democratic Republic. His artistic talent was discovered early on and allowed to unfold, thus developing his traditional painting technique right from the start. He graduated from the University of Arts in Berlin in 2002 with top grades and has been living between Kassel and Berlin ever since. His works have been showcased all over the world at individual and group exhibitions as well as renowned fairs. Philipp Weber constantly works in series whose topics he develops from a specific body pose or a special facial expression. After extensive research and his first sketches, the resulting themes are staged under professional conditions in photo studios with professional models. Following that, the painting starts: based on exact underpaintings, his canvases are produced meticulously in countless overlapping or lasered layers to obtain their brilliant colours and exact detail. The whole painting process needs months, sometimes even years. A time when rustling textiles, skin that looks real and the flow of water come to life on the canvas.
This lengthy work process is barely predestined for a large output usually reserved for the art industry and market. The artist creates unique pieces that are piquing the interest of a growing number of art collectors across Europe and Asia. ‘My type of painting is essential to me, just like my independence from quickly changing models and fast-paced working methods’ stresses the painter when talking about his technique, heritage of the past. The representations of Philipp Weber draw their themes from the fast-paced production of art today, as well as their consumption, to entrust them to limited infinity.