Painter Stephan Melzl Packs a Lot of Surreal Superhero Imagery Into Tiny Canvases at This Basel Gallery Show—See It Here

Take a sneak peek at a gallery that has just reopened to the public.

Stephan Melzl, Helden, Grundanstrich (2019). Photo: Axel Schneider, courtesy of Nicolas Krupp Galerie.
Stephan Melzl, Helden, Grundanstrich (2019). Photo: Axel Schneider, courtesy of Nicolas Krupp Galerie.

As galleries around the world begin to slowly reopen, we are focusing on exhibitions at spaces that are now receiving public visitors. Check out this show at a newly reopened gallery below.

Stephan Melzl: Helden, Grundanstrich
Nicolas Krupp Gallery, Basel

What the gallery says: “Melzl’s paintings had their genesis in a particular situation in the history of art. By the mid-1990s, the traditional idea of painting as an authentic artistic form was finally outdated. People had become mistrustful of the medium that had been considered the authoritative genre for centuries and it required a certain courage to start seriously devoting one’s attentions to it again. Melzl belongs to that generation of artists—at the time, between 30 and 40—who helped painting to once again become the subject of the current discourse on art, but this time with a changed self-image.

For Melzl, illusions are definitely tempting places of refuge, but also dangerous ones. Because when illusions are confused with actual experience, they prevent an unimpeded view of reality. By contrast, a disillusioned view of the world can no longer disappoint, it strengthens and protects. The pictorial world of Stephan Melzl is thus not only concerned with ambivalent motifs. Rather, its concern is extending and focusing the viewer’s gaze, which is directed at the scenarios staged by the artist. This gaze allows for all kinds of unbiased associations. Rejecting aesthetic and moral codices, it is liberating and a humorous relief.”

Why it’s worth a look: Stephan Melzl might be working on a small scale, but he packs a lot into each canvas. In his new show at Basel-based gallery Nicolas Krupp, paintings are hung at eye level, each containing a surreal world filled with characters straddling the banal and the supernatural. The show’s title, “Helden, Grundanstrich,” loosely translated to “Heroes, First Coat,” implies that the figures populating the images are only loosely sketched as heroes; they are rough drafts, the first coat on which the work will build.

Many of the figures actually hold paintbrushes, as if they are painting the layers of one other until the story is complete. In the titular piece, a group of figures stand at attention like soldiers wearing matching trooper hats as Batman’s logo glows behind them in the night sky. In front of them, a woman holding a paint can with the Superman logo on it stops mid-stroke, taking a break from her work. It’s as if the painter awoke in the middle of a dream and allowed you to step inside his mind as the rendered he scene on the canvas.

What it looks like:

"Stephan Melzl: Helden, Grundanstrich" at Nicolas Krupp Gallery. Photo: Serge Hasenböhler.

“Stephan Melzl: Helden, Grundanstrich” at Nicolas Krupp Gallery. Photo: Serge Hasenböhler.

Stephen Melzl, <i>Pflicht und Kür</i> (2019). Photo: Axel Schneider, courtesy of Nicolas Krupp Galerie.

Stephan Melzl, Pflicht und Kür (2019). Photo: Axel Schneider, courtesy of Nicolas Krupp Galerie.

Stephan Melzl, Die Lebenden und die Toten (The Living and the Dead) (2020). Photo: Axel Schneider, courtesy of Nicolas Krupp Galerie.

"Stephan Melzl: Helden, Grundanstrich" at Nicolas Krupp Gallery. Photo: Serge Hasenböhler.

“Stephan Melzl: Helden, Grundanstrich” at Nicolas Krupp Gallery. Photo: Serge Hasenböhler.

Stephan Melzl, <i>Feel It to Believe It</i> (2019). Photo: Axel Schneider, courtesy of Nicolas Krupp Galerie.

Stephan Melzl, Feel It to Believe It (2019). Photo: Axel Schneider, courtesy of Nicolas Krupp Galerie.

Stephen Melzl, <i>Masculin Feminin</i> (2019). Photo: Axel Schneider, courtesy of Nicolas Krupp Galerie.

Stephan Melzl, Masculin Feminin (2019). Photo: Axel Schneider, courtesy of Nicolas Krupp Galerie.

Stephan Melzl, St. Sebastian1 (2020). Photo: Axel Schneider, courtesy of Nicolas Krupp Galerie.

Stephan Melzl, St. Sebastian2 (2020). Photo: Axel Schneider, courtesy of Nicolas Krupp Galerie.

"Stephan Melzl: Helden, Grundanstrich" at Nicolas Krupp Gallery. Photo: Serge Hasenböhler.

“Stephan Melzl: Helden, Grundanstrich” at Nicolas Krupp Gallery. Photo: Serge Hasenböhler.

Stephan Melzl, <i>Das geraubte Lächeln</i> (2020). Photo: Axel Schneider, courtesy of Nicolas Krupp Galerie.

Stephan Melzl, Das geraubte Lächeln (2020). Photo: Axel Schneider, courtesy of Nicolas Krupp Galerie.

Stephan Melzl, Kruzifix (2020). Photo: Axel Schneider, courtesy of Nicolas Krupp Galerie.

Stephan Melzl, Living Colour (2019). Photo: Axel Schneider, courtesy of Nicolas Krupp Galerie.

"Stephan Melzl: Helden, Grundanstrich" at Nicolas Krupp Gallery. Photo: Serge Hasenböhler.

“Stephan Melzl: Helden, Grundanstrich” at Nicolas Krupp Gallery. Photo: Serge Hasenböhler.

Stephan Melzl, Gemischte Doppel (2019). Photo: Axel Schneider, courtesy of Nicolas Krupp Galerie.


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