Marcel Baumgartner

Leopold Schropp – “Bhoupticheib” and Knife Thrower

"Dear Marcel, it is a tremendous pleasure to visit your exhibition at weekly intervals [...].If I prefer the room with Hodler / Roth / Luginbühl / Zbinden / Amiet / Iseli, however, [then it is] because you have managed to render Bern [...] visible and noticeable; there’s a good feeling in this room. But I also like all the others: Schropp [...] is unreservedly good and in the proper place here, together with the other “Bhoupticheibe”, like Wölfli, Eggenschwiler or Weder!"

This was how Toni Gerber – who was by far the most important gallery owner in Bern during the late 1960s and 70s and who held four showings of Leopold Schropp’s works between 1978 and 1986 – reacted to the exhibition Spannungsfelder in der bernischen Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts, which I had planned and prepared for the Museum of Fine Arts Bern in 1984. Leopold Schropp (with two works from 1974 shown in the exhibition; works with that "simple geometric division of the image area", which he had detected and grasped as a "portrayal of the world" the previous year) is "unreservedly good". But what are "Bhoupticheibe" – what is a "Bhoupticheib"?

The term "Bhoupte" is Bernese German, meaning "to claim, to maintain"; the term "Cheib" or "Keib", according to Duden, can mean a number of things in Swabian and Swiss dialect, ranging from "rogue, scoundrel; bloke (pejorative)". This should not be taken so literally, however, for depending on the context, the term "Cheib" can also imply a great deal of regard. A "Bhoupticheib" is someone who asserts a claim and cannot be dissuaded. But how does this characterization concur with the contrasting image of Leopold Schropp as a person and artist described by Susanne Olms in her text Leopold Schropp – Messerwerfer (Leopold Schropp – Knife Thrower) for the publication Leopold Schropp – Bilder (Leopold Schropp – Works), which was issued for the exhibition of the same name in the Kunsthalle Gießen 2000?

Perhaps Leopold Schropp was indeed a "Bhoupicheib" – before he became the elegantly fleet-footed and unerring "knife thrower" around about 1990, that is. And presumably he had to be in order to pursue the path he had chosen in 1973. Schropp’s works in the 1970s and 80s were (and are) not simple works. They were ponderous. Particularly odd – especially for many art professionals – was also the " impossible" combination of materials in his paintings and even more so in his sculptures. Equally "impossible" as regards this combination of materials in individual works was his oeuvre as a whole, whose only constant seemed to be a remarkable heterogeneity.

In spite of the resultant distrust, Leopold Schropp professed the unity of his works with a – for many sceptics – vexing perseverance and obstinacy. Naturally for him as an artist, however, the unity could only be formulated and proven in paintings, and he thus became a "Bhoupticheib". He viewed his assertions regarding the congruity of his works (evidence of which in fact became ever more apparent in retrospect), however, as substantiated and confirmed in his systematic study of visual tenets in art which he had been conducting since 1973. Consequently, he preferred to describe them as visual archetypes because for him specific content and (visual) "statements" are inevitably interrelated with specific basic, formal principles.

This often had – admittedly – a somewhat conspicuously forced (and therefore also arduous) air about it. But since then – the beginning of the 1990s, that is – everything has changed, it has become lighter. Particularly evident in Leopold Schropp’s works from recent years is the fact that the systematic approach to acquiring visual knowledge has abated as a matter of course in the past two decades. Precisely because the work of the "knife thrower" encompasses acquired knowledge, however, the opportunity presents itself – perhaps – to see more than ever today the "tones" and "brilliance" not only in the new works, often expressed in an almost beguiling manner, but also to rediscover them in the previous, more enigmatic works by Leopold Schropp the "Bhoupticheib", whose art was at odds with the trends of the 1970s and 80s.

Marcel Baumgartner
Prof. Kunstgeschichte, Universität Giessen, DE
Oktober 2000

Bernhard Fibicher

On Leopold Schropp’s Works

Leopold Schropp is a painter who has adhered to his belief in the “impact of the painting" despite the myriad of trends for the past thirty years. Subsequent to his systematic analysis of “visual archetypes" which he carried out in the 1970s and 80s, Schropp has dealt with the reaction of colour and light on deliberately selected surfaces in his works since the 1990s. The glazed cardboard is devoid of all structure and therefore absorbs no paint, but rather reveals even the minutest detail (e.g. pigment, brushstroke) with absolute precision. Conversely, the compact gold base is perceived as paint and contests with the unconstrained application of colour on the surface and in the depth of the work.

Schropp’s paintings from the last two to three years are characterized by a free, unconstrained, measuredly expressive and meditative wielding of the brush. With his spontaneous brushstroke on glazed cardboard or the gold base, the artist captures impressions of colour perceived in nature – the sky, clouds, water, landscapes – in a unique manner. The viewer is drawn into the painting’s surface, which is not confined by a frame and on which colour “occurs” rhythmically. Schropp himself wrote ten years ago: “The smaller, structural rhythm which occurs when applying the paint enables recollections from the physical world to be conveyed and the painting’s geometric nature to be linked with the impression it elicits. After all, the colours should establish balance and, if possible, suspended balance.”
In his most recent works, Schropp achieves this suspended balance of colour – as well as the balance of colour with the base – by means of programmatic “active non-action”. The Taoist principle of action without action is a creative act, which may emerge, or perhaps not. Initially during the process of painting, everything must be forgotten - motif, technique, specific emotions – to arrive at a void and attain unadulterated perception from which the painting is not created, but rather discovered. Even if the new paintings by Leopold Schropp are now and again reminiscent of landscapes, their reference to the inner boundless infinite world is also unmistakable. With Schropp’s intuitive work as a painter, the constant motion of the physical world is brought into accord with the elusive world of the mind - until “art” nearly vanishes completely. From the state of nonbeing are created ingenious intimations of being.

Dr. Bernhard Fibicher
Curator Kunstmuseum, Bern, Switzerland
March, 2005

Magdalena Schindler

Emergence

The “Contemporary Window”, which is regularly opened in the Museum of Fine Arts Bern, is presently offering a showing of current works by Leopold Schropp, who was born in Munich in 1939 and has lived in the region of Bern since 1969. For the presentation of approximately 25 of his works, the artist selected two rooms in the lower level of the building in the Hodlerstrasse, where, on walls painted in grey, the sheer force of colour in his works unfolds. The works, at once expressive and meditative, are hung sparingly, in line with Schropp’s philosophy of “active non-action” – also the name of the current exhibition. This mindset can be understood as an homage to a seemingly paradoxical statement by Lao-tzu: “ The practice of Tao consists of subtracting day by day. Subtracting and yet again subtracting till one has reached inactivity. But by this very inactivity everything can be activated.” Any degree of force of hectic is utterly unknown to the artist. Instead, he only dips his brush in the paint and sets it to the canvas when he is breathing calmly and his feet are placed firmly on the floor. Only then does colour emerge in broad horizontal bands across his working surface and, in the case of the white glazed cardboard, lay bare any trace of pigment or drop of paint.

Be it with green, black, ochre, yellow or blue: dynamic features emerge with each colour, expanding in complexity with the addition of other elements. These features are often based on impressions of colour from nature, which can often only be guessed at due to the titles of the works: e.g. “Leadwort” (1123). With their horizontal layering, some works are also reminiscent of landscapes, an example of which is the painting “Madonna di San Marco” (1105) on a gold base, whose title refers to yet another dimension. Among the larger of Schropp’s works from the past two or three years presently assembled in the museum is also the painting on glazed cardboard: “Rosen zu Neujahr” (1128). With verve and expansive motion, he placed here a black, round “scribble”, whose effect is calligraphic and therefore emblematic but concomitantly, with the bold addition of green, also a manifesto of austere painting.

Magdalena Schindler
Zeitung "Der Bund", CH
19. 3. 2005