20 June 2018

There is no season quite so connected with longings, expectations and memories as is summer. At the same time, everybody spends the warmer months differently. We met up with artists to talk to them about this very special time of year.

During the summer months, Peter Saul can only be reached via e-mail. The painter spends the warmer months of the year outside a small town, 90 miles north of New York. He answers my message from there. A quick Google search leads to the website of architect Stan Allen. During the nineties, Allen worked for American architect Richard Meier, and in 2016 one of his designs formed part of the American pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Two years previously, he built a studio for the painter Peter Saul on a site at the edge of Germantown in upstate New York.

© Jan Buchczik

I look at the photos of his studio and see a building covered in mint-green timber cladding, photographed from various different angles. The trees in the pictures have no leaves and the narrow bands of the windows are illuminated from the inside. In one image, the detached building is photographed from a distance through trees and shrubs. There are tombstones in the foreground, forming a strange contrast to the inviting building and adding something morbid to the scene, as if it were part of an H.P. Lovecraft thriller.

Saul’s paintings are distinctly less gothic than the location of his studio might suggest. This is the workplace of someone, I think to myself, who is interested in American myths. At the same time though, the myths of this pop artist – at least that’s how he’s described in the arts supplements – are entirely different to the gloom in the forests of New England. Indeed, his paintings appear colourful and garish, often satirical and, most importantly, figural.

North of New York seems so rural that it’s no wonder Saul says he prefers to spend the summer here. Only occasionally, he writes, do he and his wife Sally like to go elsewhere, for example to Paris or London. He has also lived in Paris where, at the end of the 1950s, he considered how he could develop his own style of painting. “I thought about things from the USA, and the first thing I thought of was a fridge,” he said once. So the first thing Saul painted was a fridge, along with everything you might find in it. A kind of capitalist realism American-style, which could also be seen last year at the SCHIRN.
I take another look at his studio, the soothingly mint-green, detached house at the edge of the forest. The artist lives and works here, and he simply adores it. The last sentence of his e-mail, which he genially signs with “yerz”, reads: “I’m looking forward to the autumn, when the weather in New York State is really pleasant. Just right for taking a stroll.”