BORN IN LANGENBERG IN NORTH RHINE-WESTPHALIA IN 1934, HE DEDICATED HIS STUDIES TO GRAPHIC DESIGN AND ADVERTISEMENT. SHORTLY AFTER COMPLETING THEM, HE FELT THE CALLING TO BECOME AN ART DIRECTOR IN THE CREATIVE INDUSTRY.
However, painting was deeply rooted in his soul, even though it’s only after his move to Elsass that his painting activity took centre stage. He’s an academic painter, having studied at the state ‘Werkkunstschule’ in Kassel, however he didn’t study art at high-school or in a specialised school. His true nature as a painter paying obeisance to the classical modern movement can be swiftly recognised by looking at his seemingly infinite oeuvre. Horst Schulz-Merliés’ artistic works span over 30 years of his life, and he walks a fine line between practical and abstract themes. A constant toing and froing between what he sees and what he perceives, his entire work is made up of musings relating to his contemporary time, the available possibilities and the playful nature of illusion. His art is pure communication, an urgent expression in colours, in reduced-abstract representations – projecting his inner soul, it speaks and expresses a true lifestyle. Schulz-Merliés is through and through a responsible, pensive, and speculative creator, a man with one foot in both worlds. This opens a further spectrum of stylistic experiments, setting the scene for human behaviour against the backdrop of a modern formal language. His works don’t claim to be objective, and are created with a nod to realistic and abstract themes. References to great masters the likes of Beuys, Beckmann or Picasso come alive in his paintings.
You know, as a designer and art director I am entrusted to the ‘tangible’. I have subordinates, for who i’m responsibile.
Schultz-Merliés’ paintings attempt to create a synthesis between applied and ‘pure’ art, between design and existential painting. A concern that, in the modern period, was typified by Léger, Warhol and Vasarely, to name just three. Design and painting in these artists reached a successful synthesis. Schultz-Merliés processes the formal repertoire of modern painters by critically reinterpreting their style, creating contemporary expressive art, where the modern man can identify his lifestyle and thoughts. Man is the infinitesimal centre of his paintings, he’s the utmost expression you make out when observing his landscape of faces, sneakily adding a pinch of classicism into modern art. Indeed, the series of head and body paintings is reminiscent of Antes, Hofer´s apocalyptic faces, Ensor’s masks, Picasso‘s harlequins, but also of the mystical shapes in Rouault, and Buffet’s reduced and abstract depictions of people. Thematically, his works ask ‘what is man, what professional and societal relations does he experience, what significance does he attach to the cosmos?’ Push and pull, happiness and sorrow, loneliness, grief, memento mori: these themes always crop up in his work. However, secular and religious themes are often depicted, too; some of them will remind you of a pietas, others of a crucifixion, and others will represent the taking down of the cross. Nevertheless, the main theme continues to be human communication, ‘which rarely occurs and often fails,’ Excerpt from a Siegbert Fischer text.
I am no painter – but a designer.
We’re in Horst Schulz-Merliès’ atelier, and observe the harmonious beauty of his paintings, a playful game of patterns and colours, akin to a musical composition. Stand here for a while and you’ll undoubtedly always reach the conclusion of how Schulz-Merliés sees everything grouped into three. A trinity of concrete and abstract views. Do these paintings belong to the same hand or are they the work of two, three, or more painters – is only one person really behind the impressive, unique diversity stretching before our eyes? You’ll immediately recognise how the social aspect trumps aesthetics. Schulz-Merliès embodies an unmistakable attention for what is truly essential, which finds its roots in the recognition of how a social faux pas can have widespread consequences. Unique cubist representations, rhythmical chromatic structures, pyramid-like bodies, human sensitivities as well as synchronous represented facial expressions as ‘pure’ art belong to Schulz-Merliés´ pictorial world. His abstract works are convincing, and articulate the artist’s existential sensitivity.
The world is consumed pleasantly in front of the television every evening. as we’re already dead inside, we allow ourselves to be entertained.
Formal games and stylistic experiments characterise his ability to create. Innovative formal ‘new developments’ are incredibly important for him. He rejects aesthetic fixations and mannerisms. An essential painting principle for Schulz-Merliés is the permanent development of technical possibilities: he cares about how the interpretation process between creator and the audience is not interrupted. Horst Schulz-Merliès left this ‘make-believe world’ after a long battle with disease on 8 July 2014, bequeathing us with a great, irreplaceable oeuvre that will still be on everyone’s lips for a very long time.
I play, therefore I am, I create an illusionary world, strengthen the creative acts of different possibilities of perception. The act of becoming is everything.