Erik Schmidt created the film Cut/Uncut during a stay in Tokyo in 2015. Clad in a loose-fitting business suit, the artist strolls, seemingly aimlessly, through the metropolis, plunging into the crowds, performing everyday rituals such as eating in a fast-food restaurant or visiting a gaming arcade. Yet despite his rapprochement to the new environment and culture, moments of alienation and a sense of being different arise again and again–fracture points where his own cultural identity becomes visible.
Approximately midway through the film, the artist’s role shifts once more: during a ceremony in a traditional Japanese interior, Schmidt, his face completely impassive, calmly cuts through his clothing until all that remains is a kind of open, rather Japanese-style garment. As a symbolic act, this unravelling of the suit is reminiscent of shedding skin. The final transformation occurs at the end of the film when the artist casts off his remaining clothes and walks into the sea.
The paintings depict urban situations and how people typically behave in Tokyo’s public space, at street crossings or on the urban transport system. The cityscape is dominated by people in business suits carrying briefcases, deep in thought as they move along with the masses or staring at their smartphones. Schmidt creates a portrait of crowds in a huge city’s public space–a phenomenon that is shaped by cultural specifics yet simultaneously references a more overarching global reality, which becomes legible in clothing, particular accessories, gestures and behaviour rituals. In addition, these works testify to a painterly pleasure in material surfaces–a fascination that extends from fabrics to the traffic signs and billboards of the metropolis.
The drawings are part of a series with a shared motif in which Schmidt superimposes painted calligraphy-style signs on pages from Japanese newspapers.