Ambiguous Gestures takes as its point of origin a film Gmelin discovered in his father’s archive. Filmed from a fixed point, it portrays his father in an intimate performance of body painting with a woman unknown to Felix Gmelin. The discovery of this footage was obviously disturbing. On the one hand there is an erotic encounter with someone who is not Gmelin’s mother; on the other hand the performance itself is strangely unerotic and unsensual.
In Untitled (after Paul Schultze Nuremberg’s Kunst) (2006), from a larger series of diptychs, Gmelin addresses the notion of entartete kunst ("Degenerate Art"). Each diptych juxtaposes a portrait of a person considered to be mentally handicapped with a painting that was branded by the Nazi regime as degenerate. Gmelin's source for these images is Kunst und Rasse ("Art and Race"), a book by Paul Schultze Naumburg published in 1928. Naumburg, one of Hitler's architects, was a member of the Nazi party and became director of the Weimar Kunsthochschule in 1930.
With a degree in painting and inspired by so-called institutional criticism, Felix Gmelin is interested in the possibilities of painting as a form of resistance and its direct relation to a form of socio-political reality. He is frequently known to rework the experiences of his youth into his art. In a critical, yet personal investigation, he subtly unravels the complicated interweaving of self-development, socialization and emancipation with which he grew up in the late 1960s and 1970s. Gmelin’s first substantial work in which reproduction served as a productive impetus was Art Vandals (1996-1998), a series of 12 paintings and one object, modeled after examples of modern and contemporary artworks, all of which had been vandalized. His interest in degenerate art also falls within the interest of vandalism. The emptying of meaning is a consistent theme in his work, as a number of Gmelin’s paintings.
Felix Gmelin was born in Heidelberg in 1962 and has lived in Stockholm, Sweden, since he was nine.