Since the beginning of his career on the Cologne scene in the 1980s, Schulze’s work deliberately situates itself outside of common painterly trends, attitudes and affiliations. Despite contacts to the Neue Wilde (New Fauves) of the Mülheimer Freiheit group and other Cologne artists, the painter developed his own distinctive way of painting that combines the representational with the absurd.
His repertoire of middle-class emblems thrives on the almost brazen simplicity of their pictorial settings. The “subjects” of these renderings include such commonplace things as peas, geraniums, fruit or porcelain dishes. Everyday objects such as sofas, cars, windows, rocks or Mars bars are arranged in humorous tableaux. Shaded geometric and biomorphic sausage-like shapes are contrasted with spherical color gradients in the background. Built-in kitchen cabinets, absurd pipe constructions or the kind of fringed roller found in a car wash are interspersed with abstracted household objects and the occasional indoor plant. Interiors and landscapes merge. Prefabricated houses are captured in an oblique bird’s eye view. In series that he revisits again and again, Schulze paints pictures of spheres and windows. His car paintings resemble assemblages of car doors, bumpers, and windshields, masterfully-painted yet quite possibly cobbled together by a mischievous child. Although primarily active as a painter, Schulze has repeatedly expanded his artistic universe to include sculptures and installations. He has also designed lamps and carpets himself and staged living room interiors on floor paintings that can resemble a lawn or a street intersection.
For all his independence, Schulze brings a multitude of art historical references to the fore: from Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadisches Ballett (Triadic Ballet) to Pop, surrealism and naïve painting. Yet he also defies the avant-garde propensity for assuming a superior stance of profundity. Balancing on the fine line between representation and abstraction, he carves out our collective pictorial understandings of miscellaneous everyday objects while simultaneously subjecting them to a kind of humorous destabilization. The objects are recognizable as such, and yet they also resemble patterns, designs or ornaments. They always exude something almost surreal; infused with an intrinsic logic of painterly comedy, they often have the look of something puffed-up and soft, if not inflated.
In radically simplifying his everyday subjects and thereby depriving them of their already rather banal meaning, Schulze forces viewers to question their fundamental nature. His work alternates between familiarity and strangeness and seems to express a fear of our increasingly complex society. It is an oeuvre that seems to make fun of middle-class trappings and their fetishization while also showing great sympathy and understanding about the need for such fetishes.