Excerpt from the the monographic publication:
Jerry Haenggli - Ohne Titel - Zwischenwelten
2010 Kehrer Verlag, Heidelberg - Berlin
Author: Andreas Meier
Painting like the lash of a whip
Nothing uplifting, beautiful or delicate. No consoling and reassuring visions. There is no place in Jerry Haenggli's pictorial universe for the transcendental, no room for promises of salvation. One would love to assume the existence of a reassuring counterforce to balance against the fear-inducing. The denunciation and banishment of evil through the power of imagery.
Why on earth did I get so involved with these paintings? There was some temporary hesitation after a first discussion in the artist's studio, but afterwards the images I had experienced would simply not leave me alone. I was well and truly hooked. Maybe I was first too bound up with the usual aesthetic expectation of what pictures on a wall actually have as a function: identity-establishing, constructive, serious or even humorous, perhaps sometimes offering small glimpses of eternity. Unexpectedly, I felt the impulse to write and I was teased by the thought of defying my own inner emotional resistance. And of course there was the incontestable power of imagery that casts a spell over the observer who encounters these paintings.
There is a recent artistic tradition known as 'Bad Painting', which makes fun of the illusion of the effectiveness of paintings and supposed good taste. Those who count themselves among the enthusiasts for such devil-may-care mockery coupled with passionately massive affronts against historical artistic tradition are clearly affirming that they are individualists who despise the establishment with all its panoply of oh-so-nice accessories. In this genre of ironic postmodern painting, rebellion takes its form in the denial of any kind of rules and responsibilities. People who decorate their living space with such picture are declaring that they see themselves as cool depreciators of the mainstream and as strong enough to be able to live against its tide. It could well be that this attitude also resonates in Jerry Haenggli's allusions to Punk culture: the quest for somewhere far from all corruption and corruptibility, an act of creative assertion of freedom, which renounces every pat on the shoulder from a gallery owner or arts council.
He invents images that remind us of television coverage and pictures in the daily newspapers, images that follow us into our dreams – opaque confrontations with a far-off reality, which we encounter with a natural distrust precisely because they often do not admit clear interpretation.
These images of desolation are also portrayals of helplessness. The observer of the picture cannot in addition provide assistance. Like the ambulance driver, the surgeon, the criminologist and the undertaker, the photographer is an element in the margins of the natural catastrophe or the war. The tasks of mourning and reflection are not his business. When it comes to healing traumas, to healing spiritual wounds, it is only those who, having overcome their initial momentary interior bewilderment, search for words again and form images: images of remembrance, words of conciliation, followed by the endeavour to carry on with life, to keep violence at bay.
Paintings such as Picasso's 'Guernica' are enlightening visualisations that are intended to help us to guard against violence and detect the birth of conflict, for the dark side is within each one of us. It appears in certain social or familial contexts, and may escalate into uncontrolled aggression. The demonic inner self that we vaguely associate with images of the devil and in the modern sense of behavioural science connect with aggressiveness, and which constantly erupts individually or in collective circumstances, demands to be perceived more clearly. It exists. And we cannot gloss over it with pretty pictures. Better to look more closely than to look away.
This is the territory that Jerry Haenggli moves in. His paintings seek the multiplicity of meaning that demands that our critical understanding operates with perceptual lucidity. His images ask questions about the reasons for suffering and violence, for self-mutilation and for delight in destruction. Disturbing the image of beauty through pictorial intervention means penetrating these dark zones of aggressive behaviour, going under the surface of the pretence of the loveliness of existence. The desire to paint banishes aggressiveness. It is an act of substitution and a field of research in an unknown pictorial land, completely divorced from any consideration of what the observer thinks of it. Exposing oneself to possible rejection as a possibility of artistic authenticity, with no angling for acceptance. This is the path Jerry Haenggli takes, uncompromisingly conscious of the form and the aim to be achieved.
*1949, M.A. in Art History and Germanist
1990 – 2002 Founding Director, CentrePasquArt, Biel/Bienne
2003 – 2008 Director, Seedamm Cultural Centre, Pfäffikon
from 2008 freelance author and publicist