FREDI FISCHLI and NIELS OLSEN Your upcoming show at New York’s New Museum is centered on your “Computer Paintings.”
ALBERT OEHLEN Yes, that series is based on computer-generated images that have then been painted on. I made them in two short bursts, sometime in the middle of the 1990s through 2000. It’s a great thing to see these paintings together again—it makes me happy.
FN And along with the computer paintings, there’s a group of works from the late 1990s. Massimiliano Gioni calls them “switch paintings.” Where did that concept come from?
AO It’s a temporary title suggested by the material. In theseis works, I layered various images over each other on the computer, printed them out in large format, and then painted over them. They can be seen either as computer-generated art or as physical constructions. I appropriate something “found” and imagine I have painted it myself. Naturally, I’m not satisfied, so then I take further steps.
FN Are these further steps closer to erasure or to improvement?
AO Both. The two go together. To improve something—in order to make it fresh—you have to repaint it. That’s one part of the process. You also have to overpaint—that is, to take the painting further, playing surgeon to an extent by connecting, swabbing, sewing together, plastering over.
FN How do you bring the computer into the process?
AO It allows me to bring up many different images. As I consider them, I define a vocabulary of qualities that I want to see brought together: delicacy and coarseness, color and vagueness and, underlying them all, a base note of hysteria.
FN The work does have a very hysterical quality to it, probably because it does not represent any realistic composition. They are totally “all-over” paintings.
AO Yes, they are extreme “all-over” paintings. From time to time, some specific element is accentuated, but then there will be something absurd, right in the middle of the picture. It’s the third eye—the Eye of God, so to speak. But I also don’t think that “all-over” is contrary to composition.