cowboys

One of the central aspects of Hannes Schmid’s work is undoubtedly his original and impressive portrayal of the American cowboy. This work, which was initially commissioned, immediately had an enormous impact on both the general public and the art world. Schmid elevated his protagonists from their status as simple cowhands and gave them a heroic, decidedly masculine persona.
His photographs were shown to the public in the NEVER LOOK BACK exhibition from 12th June to 29th September 2010 at the Swiss Foundation of Photography. Starting with his photographs, Schmid painted pictures in oil on canvas and, in this way, turned the photograph into the original. By then repeating the photographic process, Schmid plays another games with our senses. This confirms that the photograph alone stimulates the various levels of perception of representation and reality in the observer.

More than an invention, the Marlboro cowboy is a mythic figure. Hannes Schmid has put his stamp on the iconic figure of the cowboy, which in the 1990s essentially took root even in the world of conceptual art.
What intrigues Hannes Schmid is to look into coteries, into private, closed groups and to analyze their social behavior patterns, thus introducing his viewers to those groups’ rituals. He does this without judgment, but with respect; he is not their judge but rather one of them. For Hannes Schmid a picture’s value lies in its impact. His heroes, representatives of a unique world, are likable, and viewers can easily imagine themselves belonging to them, to their world. Indeed, questions regarding one’s own personal reality do not even arise.
The cowboy is an archetypal figure from the world of dreams and serves as a shining example or hero. Not only in his native land but all over the world, he embodies the desire for freedom and thus symbolizes a longed for masculine way of life. Even in the detailed view the cowboy’s iconic attributes remain clearly recognizable. Hannes Schmid’s perspective reveals that here culture and subject come together and change places. What emerges at this meeting point is not trivial by any means.
Thanks to the added photo-realistic reproductions of Schmid’s works on canvas, the artist here is playing with two levels of perception: representation and reality. The picture first enters our awareness boldly and simply and then penetrates into our depths. This shifting relationship between representation in photographs and in paintings could be pursued further and ultimately lays bare the nature of the world as malleable. Hannes Schmid is not interested in the fleeting glance out the window as the world rushes by. His pictures are to affect us; they are intended to make a difference. They stimulate our senses and evoke nostalgic feelings. The artist deliberately chooses and places his colors, and by using predominantly warm hues, he evokes a feeling of an almost sacred space, of safety and protection, of home. Viewing the pictures in succession leads to a sense of defamiliarization and this makes the cowboy all the more into a mythic image.

Ildegarda E. Scheidegger, Zurich, 2008