Stefan Auf der Maur was born in 1979 in Luzern, where he also grew up. In 2004, he was awarded the diploma in scientific illustration from the Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst in Zurich. He has followed his inner drive to draw for as long as he can remember. School notebooks and pages brimming with scribbles attest to a seemingly innate predisposition to drawing.
With his expertly guided brushstrokes, the artist explores and elicits stories and experiences of stuffed animals, thus allowing the viewer to conjure up their own childhood memories. Already during his training, he participated in the Fumetto Comic Festival in Luzern, receiving the Audience Award in 2001. In 2008, his work was selected for the 2008 Kunstregionale at the Kunsthaus Baselland.
Terms like cute, sweet, cuddly are the first reactions to Stefan Auf der Maur’s paintings. Childhood memories join up as further reactions, for who didn’t have a plush, furry or rubber animal in bed with them to drift off, carefree and innocent, into deep sleep and its concomitant dreams? These partners, however, were not just happy, they also accompanied us in our sorrow, during illnesses and when our world threatened to go under. And latest after puberty, they landed in a bag or a box in the attic, or even in the trash, staying not only out sight, but out of mind as well.
Stefan Auf der Maur is dedicated to their rehabilitation, recovering them from attics or the street, where they generally end up amongst the bulky trash, and draws their portraits or arranges them in groups and captures their still life. His formation as scientific illustrator provides a valuable basis, as he shows the animals and figures explicitly, in their own individuality and physiognomy, which is often disconnected from the cuteness that viewers ascribe them.
That his paintings are more than simply enchanting, Stefan Auf der Maur proves through his painterly style. Some of his portraits are made alla prima in order to maintain the individual brushstrokes, compositions and contours clearly visible on the finished canvas. Other paintings, on the other hand, have been constructed systematically, as was customary in academic paintings of the early 20th century. He primed the painting, sanded and repainted as well as glazed and reworked the paint layers, and finally varnished the painting so as to acquire the famous effect of depth and concentration.
Moreover, there are not only the animals as portraits or still lives to consider; equally important are the back- and foregrounds of the paintings, which are composed of toned colours and recall the works of Cy Twombly or the landscapes of Courbet. Stefan Auf der Maur is therefore situated in a middle ground, as his paintings are neither fully representational nor fully abstract. They possess both qualities, in the same way that they incorporate different conclusions.
His art is not suggestive, wishing to manipulate the viewer’s perception. By giving full attention to the represented subjects and especially by treating them as individual personalities, regarding as well as representing them seriously, he manages to affect viewers on an emotional level and offer each a distinctive experience.
Simon Baur, Basel
2009, © Galerie HILT