Art Talks | Fictional Reality

30 Apr 2016
3 min read
Swiss artist Till Rabus’ hyperrealist paintings of everyday objects come with a surrealist twist, writes Sophie Cater for FOUR International edition…
Combining precision with hyperrealism

Till Rabus is flying a powerful flag for emerging artists who portray the world we live in. His work is somewhat of an oxymoron; painting still-lives, landscapes and nudes with precision and hyperrealism, his works are stark representations of our modern world, while his compositional manipulations echo surrealist values. “However,” Till explains, “it seems like I am too down to earth to be surrealist. I don’t want to talk about my dreams or imaginary worlds. What interests me is being able to manipulate objects and putting them in a situation to create shapes and peculiar atmospheres.” Till has a penchant for eradicating any human presence and suggesting that the objects that he portrays are left behind by human consumption.

Growing up in Switzerland, near Neuchatel, Till discovered his passion for art at the Bruce Naumann exhibition in Zurich. “I felt very intrigued by it,” he explains. “I think from that day on, I started to become interested in contemporary art and would travel around to visit exhibitions in museums, art galleries and biennales.” Majoring in engraving, Till worked in a watch factory before working for an educative rainforest association in Brazil. Upon his return to Switzerland, the young artist came into fruition.

While being influenced by Swiss painters, sculptors and visual artists like Fischli/Weiss, Urs Fischer, Roman Signer, and Christoph Büchel, Till also draws on the work of international artists like Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelley, the Chapman brothers, Erwin Wurm and Sarah Lucas. Similarly depicting humorous, ironic and sometimes shocking subjects, Till addresses the topics of waste, sex, life and death in his paintings by depicting landscapes, nudes and still lives that he assembles and paints using acrylic and oil paint. “We are invaded by objects, waste, adverts and photos on internet. I sort [through] the waste, I recycle [it] and from that material I try to create work that is out of the ordinary.” Using hyperrealist techniques, Till’s work reflects his perception of the world in all its over-indulgent, eccentric and beautiful detail.

His paintings propose a dichotomy between the surrealist and realist world. Always painting in a hyperrealist way means that he can combine real objects with fictional scenes. ‘Patchwork hôtel’ depicts a bundle of sexualised female arms and legs on a bed. Created by collating images of the same model from men’s magazines, Till put them together to create a surreal sculpture on the background used in the image. Reminiscent of a scene from the porn industry, the absurd setting is painted with hyperrealism, almost ridiculing the extreme nature of the industry.

Rifling through discarded rubbish, Till finds many of his objects to depict in his paintings. With the aim of depicting a fantastic scene with everyday objects, ‘Camping lunch’ takes a surrealist approach and a Salvador Dali-esque quality; baguettes transform into monsters with features made of gherkins, popcorn, frankfurters, mustard and lettuce, while a splatter of ketchup on sausage and takeaway box make the foreground and the picnic table and cloud-peppered blue sky set the background.

On the other hand, some of his paintings are more overtly realist and painted from life. The ‘Arciburger’ painting depicts a MacDonald’s meal, upside down; ‘Grand Blond’ has a photo-like quality laced with dark humour, showing an abandoned car seat in a dark, ominous forest, which has been dressed up with a wig and coat; ‘Venus’ juxtaposes a nude woman in an over-sized shell, surrounded by a sculpture of plastic chairs in a manner that is meant to resemble a classic painting. Using acrylic as a base, Till creates layers with oil paint, giving the paintings a dense appearance, with smooth lines and precise tones. The effect leaves you wondering whether it really is a painting.

Today, you can find Till’s work mainly around Europe; in the Aeroplastics contemporary art gallery in Brussels and in the Lange & Pult art gallery in Zurich. In autumn he will be presenting a range of paintings in the showroom of the Michael Haas art gallery in Berlin, Germany.

For more information about Till and his work, click here…