Frances Scholz: “Waterloo”

The 9x26-metre artwork “Waterloo” by the artist Frances Scholz stretches across the entire back wall of the foyer in the Orchesterzentrum|NRW. The work is the latest piece in a series of paintings and installations by the artist which began with the film PANORAMA (2006).

As Scholz filmed the annual re-enactment of the battle of Waterloo in Belgium, she recognised in this new staging of the apogee of the “art of war” of the Enlightenment an impactful pivotal point between art and war, Enlightenment and Romanticism, the 18th and 19th centuries, the 19th and 20th centuries, and so on. As such, the live re-enactment of a battle represents art in the sense of a fixing of the principle of the transformation and open possibilities, presuming the clear stipulation of historical reality.

This sort of juxtaposition of possibilities also marks the work of Frances Scholz on different levels. On the one hand, the image can be read as the silhouette of a military formation on the battlefield. But at the same time, it depicts the negative form of a drawing from 1807 of a lily in a vase by Philipp Otto Runge – in other words, the complete opposite of a battlefield panorama. Many simultaneous dichotomies like this can be recognised in the picture. Here are just a few examples:

The painting, which greets concertgoers and invites them to enjoy a musical experience takes on an oddly active roll from the point of view of the passers-by. Scholz’s work picks up on the expansive architectural use of (partially) mirrored glass – which creates a private anteroom for joint visual communication – and connects the sporadically reflected surroundings with the free, orchestral interaction of form, gesture and colour.

In the transformation of the negative form, Runge’s classic floral still life becomes an element of pop iconography, so to speak, since this form resembles a speech bubble or the comic-like representation of a cloud, released by Aeolus, the god of the wind.

The futuristic, minimalistic, persistently smooth and flat mural also refers optically to the ideal of the three-dimensional depth in traditional wall painting since the Renaissance.

Just like music itself, the mural on the one hand represents the realisation of a “draft” of a precisely defined, mechanically reproduced concept and on the other hand records its direct “manifestation” in real time. The picture is painted by hand in fast, broad brushstrokes under the limitations of time, body and gravity. In this, the paint splatters and small misapplications are in their making an integral part of the work, which celebrates the power of music played “live” in the sense of an immutable, unworked performance in real time. 

These are all possible interpretations with regards to this work. When considering these interpretations, it must be kept in mind that “Waterloo” emerges from a yet radical avant-garde tradition, within which a work of art does not dictate its meaning in a didactical way but rather invites every viewer to participate in an individual critical journey into the tangible.