Kurt Schranzer: The Great Walls

Posted on May 22, 2011

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Kurt Schranzer, Forest Wall, Bavaria (For the Brothers Grimm), 2008–2010, acid catalysed varnish, wood veneers, medium density fibreboard, plywood, welded aluminium frame, 2 panels 220 x 120 x 6 cm, overall dimensions 220 x 240 x 6 cm. Fabrication with Josef Schranzer.

Kurt Schranzer, 'Forest Wall, Bavaria (For the Brothers Grimm)', 2008–2010, acid catalysed varnish, wood veneers, MDF, plywood, welded aluminium frame, 2 panels 220 x 120 x 6 cm, overall dimensions 220 x 240 x 6 cm. Fabrication with Josef Schranzer.

It takes one to know one!” is a classic schoolyard retaliatory tactic. It’s a defensive response to a variety of taunts, used to best effect when flung back immediately with vitriolic sass. But it can also be an accurate observation.

When I say Kurt Schranzer is a perfectionist, you can believe it. After all, it takes one to know one. Of course, being a perfectionist doesn’t mean you are perfect. It just means you aim unfeasibly high and try bloody hard.

Schranzer is also obsessive, meticulous and highly skilled. He is known for his achingly accurate line drawings, so clean and steady it is hard to believe that they are done by hand and not by some mechanism calibrated for precision. The biggest clue is their subtle, but pervasive homoerotic imagery. No cold, lifeless machine could produce anything quite so hot blooded.

In The Great Walls, Schranzer has used his considerable tenacity and skill to create intricately inlaid wooden wall pieces. The works in this solo show, may not be perfect (almost nothing really is), but technically at least, they come frighteningly close.

Schranzer collaborated with his Father, a master cabinet maker, to create The Great Walls, and many of the works read like a kind of sampler of traditional patterns and technical optical illusions: wood seems to have been woven, flat surfaces become spinning stars or steps receding into 3D space. But, the strongest pieces have complex layers of meaning added to the thick base of craft prowess.

In, Forest Wall, Bavaria (For the Brothers Grimm), the mysterious liminal zone of a fairytale forest is condensed and flattened into an impenetrable veneer; inaccessible and relentlessly real.

Kurt Schranzer, 'Thatched Tower', 2007–2010, acid catalysed varnish, burned matches, wood putty, wood veneer, plywood, welded aluminium frame, 215 x 64.5 x 22 cm. Fabrication with Josef Schranzer.

Kurt Schranzer, 'Thatched Tower', 2007–2010, acid catalysed varnish, burned matches, wood putty, wood veneer, plywood, welded aluminium frame, 215 x 64.5 x 22 cm. Fabrication with Josef Schranzer.

Thatched Tower is made from an impressive/obsessive 28,000 burnt matchsticks, Matchstick constructions are one of the craft techniques commonly practised by prisoners. Schranzer has liberated this technique and taken it to new heights of elegance, his chequerboard monolith is smooth, gleaming and to all intents and purposes, flawless. Yet it still speaks of incarceration, if not physically, perhaps metaphysically: the bondage of obsession, the constraints of perfectionism, the limitations we all must face. With its burnt matches (flames already snuffed out), rectangle shape and roughly anthropomorphic proportions, Schranzer’s Thatched Tower  is also something of a memento mori.

And this may be the key. In The Great Walls, Schranzer is paying homage to his Father. And unlike many of us who have done the same, he has had the good sense to do it while the man is still alive. Nice work.

Tracey Clement

Kurt Schranzer: The Great Walls is on at the Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest until June 19, 2011.

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Posted in: The Good