Till Freiwald’s watercolor portraits approach his subjects straight on in closely cropped large-scale compositions. The subjects themselves are ordinary, and while the paintings recall the many thousands of ephemeral photographic portraits in the media, the translucency of Freiwald’s medium and the scale allow for a more contemplative and engaging format.
“When I left art school in 1991, I made abstract paintings in oil. I tried this for a while but something was missing,’ wrote Friewald in a publication that accompanied his inclusion in a 2012 exhibition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.
He continues that he “longed for the encounter with myself, so I turned to painting people, first in oil and then in watercolor. I wanted to keep my working conditions as simple as possible: a sheet of paper, watercolors, and somebody in front of me. The volatile character of watercolors was a challenge, but I privileged the luminosity of the medium. Over many years I made small portraits from life and larger ones from memory. A couple of years ago I started using photographs to back up my work. Still, I work from life first. I try to make sure the photograph documents my direct encounter with the model. I use the limitations and prospects presented by my processes—whether working from life, a photograph, or memory—to enhance the shape and substance of what becomes visible.”
Freiwald was born in Lima, Peru, studied at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design in Germany, and lives and works in Germany. He has exhibited his work widely, most recently in group shows at MART, Italy (2013), the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., (2012-13), the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax, Canada (2012) and the Boise Art Museum, Idaho (2012). His work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Boise Art Museum, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Castilla y Leon, the Israel Museum and Yale University Art Gallery.
Jack Shainman Gallery has been working with Freiwald since 1999. Solo exhibitions include Echo (1999), and Field of Vision (2001), and Recent Paintings (2004). Freiwald has been included in the following group exhibitions at Jack Shainman Gallery: -poiesis (2006), A Charge to Keep (2004), The Conversation (1999) and Ecstasy (1998).