Simon Shim-Sutcliffe, born in Canada in 1997, lives and works in Frankfurt am Main. He received his artistic training at the Städelschule, studied sculpture at the Glasgow School of Arts and art history at the University of Toronto. His work includes paintings, videos and collaborative immersive installations. Central to his practice is an interest in the contemporary surplus of images, infrastructure and nature.

Exhibition view Simon Shim-Sutcliffe: True Desires

In an interview with Hatje Cantz, Simon Shim-Sutcliffe talks about the connections between large dams and Caspar David Friedrich and a very special work of his own that relates specifically to the work of the Romantic painter.

Hatje Cantz: Have you experienced a very personal Friedrich moment in your life you like to tell us about? 

Simon Shim-Sutcliffe: Standing in front of the absolutely monumental Enguri Dam in Georgia, or the pyramid like Le Grande Dixence in Switzerland one can’t help but feel like a Rückenfigur in a Caspar David Friedrich Painting. For the past few years I have been visiting massive hydro dams across the world. I felt that these infrastructural sites of dams were like photographic cuts in a cinematic river of time. When I would look out from these dams, out at the landscapes we would confront a panoramic view distilling our constructed landscape. Visiting these sites I started to imagine that this infrastructure, despite it being the most pressing examples of modernity, would lose its function and necessities, becoming like the ruined castle settings of a Caspar David Friedrich painting.

HC: Can you tell us which elements from Friedrich's work you have taken up in your own artworks and what role they play in your artistic practice?

SSC: I have been working on a piece that directly references the building from Caspar David Friedrich’s 1827 painting Verschneite Hütte. Which in its moment of creation is the same year of the birth of photography but presents ambivalently a ruined farm workers hut or quarry entrance. I built a life size version of the hut in a remote island in Canada, where it has been intentionally degrading for years. I have been waiting for the right time to render it as a photograph to reconsider the infrastructure of the image, through the work of slowing down and waiting for the right snow and holding back for the right amount of decay. To think about the Verschneite Hütte by Caspar David Friedrich almost as a kind of primordial earthwork or contemporary piece of land art. Tackling the more-than-human world the painting becomes the tip of an iceberg within a constructed landscape.

Exhibition view Simon Shim-Sutcliffe: Organs of Sentiment

HC: Why do you think Friedrich's work is relevant today?

SSC: I see him as kind of the first Post Studio artist par excellence who taught us how to see, training our eyes on and beyond Gordon Matta Clark and Robert Smithson. A painter of a fragile reality whose colleagues are not other artists but the flora and fauna of the world. The painterly signature of Caspar David Friedrich draws itself out through a relationship to the zone of the tangible world. I think Caspar David Friedrich only gains relevance as he lets people know where they stand. I see my own artistic practice as one that works in situ and I have learned that through closely examining the ever changing paintings of Friedrich which operate as compasses to an ever changing planet.

The interview with Simon Shim-Sutcliffe for Hatje Cantz was conducted by László Rupp in March 2024.  

Header image © Adam Shiu-Yang Shaw

Veröffentlicht am: 23.04.2024