Quiet, cool, and mysterious, the photorealistic paintings of Johannes Schramm do not depict water so much as conjure its essence.
Quiet, cool, and mysterious, the photorealistic paintings of Johannes Schramm do not depict water so much as conjure its essence. A longtime swimmer, Schramm first became fascinated with water scenes twenty years ago, when he began photographing the entrances to pools—handrails and staircases descending into water—on his regular swims. The point where solid reality begins to mingle with the liquid world continues to be a central focus: in his canvases, bits of geometry and tangible matter (pool tiles, lane lines, plant life, buoys) cuts through, overlays, and reflects upon the water, creating endless visual puzzles.
In the water, Schramm has written, “rigid, strictly functional things begin to bend. The deeper they plunge, the more straight lines dissolve into curved lines, and shapes are disintegrated and thrown together. It is disordered geometry, interspersed with reflections, that I see when looking at the water surface.” Of his recent paintings involving water lilies and other plant life, he notes how, on closer inspection, “vegetation floating on the water crosses over with vegetation mirrored in the water, while between flat-lying leaves, new shoots break through the surface and uncoil themselves into forms such as sails or shells.”
Along with his poetically conceived liquid surfaces, Schramm continually offers surprising perspectives—sometimes positioning the viewer looking down into a pool from above, other times giving us a swimmer’s view, immersed in the waves. As German artist and professor Kurt Haug has said of his paintings, “one goes beyond the enjoyment of their aesthetic surface stimuli and, as if imperceptibly sinking deeper, delves into the essence of the element, which they rewrite in infinite variations.”
Born in 1965 in Munich, Schramm studied fine art at the University of Art in Kassel. He has held exhibitions in Germany, Spain, Denmark and beyond, and lives and works in Kassel, Germany.