Across Virtual Mountains


The works of Sven Drühl – who has been exploring the mountain subject for more than two decades through a constant evolution in the way he presents and represents it – appear at once realistic and unreal.
The artist does not choose his subjects through direct observation, as one might imagine from this traditional type of motif. These are not landscapes of the soul that spring from his own emotional backgroud.
Sven Drühl extrapolates mountain shots from backgrounds of computer game vector files. Borrowing references from the virtual world and the world of digital computer graphics, the artist creates a nature of the future, calculated
and artificially constructed. The use of lacquers, layered through numerous layers, and the skillful work of light and shadow, produce the effect of a mountain placed in a supratemporal dimension and lacking any kind of depth.
Sven Drühl’s can thus be understood as an “open” mountain, an ideal model from which and toward which to move.



S.D.C.G.T. (Oil), 2020, 100 x 80 cm, Oil and Lacquer on Canvas, Private Collection Taiwan





Sven, where does your fascination for mountains come from and how do you interpret your research applied to such a historical and at the same time so topical subject?

I don’t know exactly where it comes from, but all the time when I was visitng a museum during studies and even before, I was hanging around in the rooms with 19 century mountain paintings. In my studies I did punkrock bad painting, very ironical and cynic – call it teenage-art. Some years after university I started to work more conceptual, but I wanted a subject thats hits the viewer directly. Everybody has a certain feeling about mountains, so I wanted to research the historic dimension of the motif and in the same time I wanted to be very contemporary. That was the challenge. The first years I did remixes of landscape paintings. For example Ferdinand Hodler was reacting on the direct view into the real existing landscape and he was doing his abstractions in the painting process. Then I am looking at his paintings and abstract much more, so its abstraction in second order (maths!) and my paintings of this period doesn’t look realistic at all. About 7 years I started changing the concept and turned it upside down by painting very realistic paintings, but the basis is no longer reality based, its pure virtual.





S.D.C.G.T. (Stretch), 2022, 100 x 250 cm, Oil and Lacquer on Canvas, Private Collection Hamburg
S.D.C.G.T. VI, 2019, 100 x 140 cm, Oil and Lacquer on Canvas. Courtesy the artist, A PICK Gallery, Torino and Tony Wuethrich Galerie, Basel




In your work, the mountain is a datum at once realistic but unreal: the images represent mountains that do not exist, because they are actually elaborations of backgrounds of vector files from computer games. The theme of originality here seems to me that it can be declined in relation to the concept of nature and naturalness. Looking at your works, as one questions the idea of copy and original, reality and illusion, at the same time one wonders, what is “natural”? In what, referring to your apocryphal landscapes, does the authenticity of nature consist?


The idea was to paint very realistic looking landscapes that doesnt exist at all. But the vector data I use is done by feeding the programm with thousands of photos of Alps, Anden, etc. So its always reminds you to some landscape that you might know. Its all about re-inventing a landscape out of the virtual and I really have to create it with my brush, there is nearly nothing I can compare with and verifie at. If you look deeper in how my paintings are done, its very mathematic-technical, not like oldschool paintings. My paintings are done in several layers and the details are not bound to reality. The lights and shadows are not in the right place and in fact it looks more like a pattern when you zoom in. Its totally abstract and not realistic at all. But in defining a horizon it switches. I want to make clear that our picture of nature has always been a construction.



How much control or rather how much randomness is there in your works? While digital processing refers to a “mathematical” and “measured” work, the pictorial gesture with the superimposition of materials and techniques seems, on the contrary, to have a component of randomness, capable of transforming the starting image into something else that I wonder how much you can or want to control or plan.


The paintings of the lacquer series are planned completely at the computer. And then random comes across in the painting process, but only in strictly defined parts or in some layers. When I mix 2 different colours in lacquer I have limited control what happens in detail…its like when you drip milk into coffee…and therefore they never look like they were planned. I define exactly where the branches are or how low the horizon is and also the shape of the mountains, but the inside of these areas are under limited control. And for the motifs itsself: There are some seascapes that turn into mountains only by using a surprising colour.





S.D.E.T. III, 2017, 180 x 180 cm, Lacquer on Canvas, Private Collection Cologne
S.D.C.G.T. (Mirror), 2017, 110 x 110 cm, Lacquer on Canvas, Private Collection Berlin



Have you ever thought of expanding your fascination for the virtual world and taking your research quest to an extra pictorial level, perhaps through the use of technology?

I thought about, but then I decided NOT to turn into that artfield, because there are so many artists working in it for years on such a high level that it would feel wrong. I don’t want to jump on that train…I am a painter, that all I ever wanted to be…and to say it clear, I am not addicted to the virtual world, but after remixing landscape artworks for so many years, I was researching in which field a new pictorial concept of nature/landscape is realized. And its wasn’t in the art context, but in the computer context. Therefore I started to work on this basis.



S.D.N.N., 2022, 100 x 180 cm, Oil and Lacquer on Canvas. Courtesy the artist, A PICK Gallery, Torino and Tony Wuethrich Galerie, Basel