What went first, what came after, what will be? In a mythic setting between abandoned ruins and cozy wooden architecture, Andreas Schmitten tells a story in pictures where space and time come unstuck. The eight-page work First there is a house, then there is no house, then there is (2018) recalls a graphic novel or a film storyboard. It revolves around existential questions of meaning and significance, destruction and emptiness, healing and insight. In both religious and artistic terms, images and symbols are used here to create and convey iconographies, or to call them into question. Over and over, they undergo processes of secularization and reinvestment with aura, in search of meaning—meanings that are attributed, renegotiated, and then altered again; possibly, in another time or place, coming to recall their origins once more.

A one dimensional, chronological reading would be too simple for the events portrayed here, which artistically explore the history of St. Agnes (formerly a Catholic church, now an art gallery) in its changing functions and semantics. Relics of exuberant parties meet with church pews and crucifixes. Again and again, elements of religious iconography mix with the visual worlds of profane everyday life. Seemingly dystopian scenarios of a novella set in the end-time transform into scenes with idyllic mountain cabins, like something from the set of an American Christmas movie. The protagonists in the story are lifeless, exhausted, and ill, but then they are found, lovingly cared for, and healed. They receive new clothes, a roof over their heads, and a new outlook. Who are the victims and who are their saviors? Three chosen ones rise up out of the sea, install their artifacts, and found a new community. Is this the end or a new beginning for something that is long since over?

© Text Janine BlößFirst there is a house, then there is no house, then there is, 2018
pigment pencil, watercolour on watercolour paper, artist frame,
8 parts each 51.5 x 34 cm; each framed 58.8 x 40.9 x 3 cm