We are pleased to introduce Gabriel Schmitz – one of the newly commissioned artists-in-residence at our Pomegranates 2023 festival.

Born in 1970 in Dortmund, Schmitz is a visual artist who after graduating from Edinburgh College of Art, settled in Barcelona where he has lived and worked since the mid 1990s. In response to our curatorial invitation to undertake the residency at Pomegranates 2023, Schmitz said:

For me contemporary dance has always been an important source of inspiration because for a figurative painter to capture the subtle and profound language of a body in motion is at once the most challenging and the most rewarding task an artist can face. I am really looking forward to my residency at Pomegranates 2023 festival as it will allow me to engage with traditional dance for the first time in my practice.

The artist’s lasting fascination with dance dates back to 2014 when Schmitz started to explore the possibility of drawing movement with the Spanish dancer Magdalena Garzón in Barcelona. This was followed by his artist’s residency at MANA Contemporary in Jersey City where Schmitz had the opportunity to draw during a month-long rehearsal of the also resident dance company ArmitageGone!Dance. Out of this experience came a sketchbook which the artist published a year later as a facsimile limited edition.

From there on collaborations became more frequent and most recently led to the artst’s participation in the accompanying programme at 59th Venice Biennale 2022, where he showed a selection of his dance paintings and drawings in the European Cultural Centre’s Palazzo Mora as part of the group exhibition Personal Structures, alongside five live events for which he invited various dancers during the seven-month run of the exhibition.

Pomegranates 2023 will not only provide Schmitz with the first opportunity to explore world dance and music during the first festival day of intensive professional development led by trad dance artists and choreographers, including Pia Walker (Scotland), Yefing Zhu (China), Karlis Cantis (Latvia), Oksana Banshikova (India) and Lara Russo (Italy).

Schmitz will also follow in the footsteps of our inaugural Pomegranates 2022 artist-in-residence Claudia Nocentini who danced away with her iPad and stylus throughout the day of professional development workshops to create over 80 gestural life drawings which provided the moving image accompaniment for the costume promenade on the festival stage.

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What is more, Schmitz’ festival residency will be accompanied by Duets – his first solo exhibition in Scotland which we curated specifically for the Storytelling Court, free and open to all. Opening ahead of Pomegranates festival weekend, Duets will run 26 March–1 May 2023 and will feature a hand-picked selection of new dance drawings, cutouts and paintings, as well as films from his dance and drawing live events at Palazzo Mora, Venice.

Duets will also offer opportunities to experience Schmitz’ life drawing duets with dance, paper and charcoal during the exhibition preview at the Storytelling Court on 25 March and the first day of workshops on 28 April as part of the Pomegranates 2023 festival weekend. For anyone who won’t be able to make Schmitz’ live dance and drawing duets on 28 April in-person, a livestream option will be available also on Pay What You Can basis here.

Additionally, the artist will spread the Pomegranates seeds way beyond Edinburgh by presenting a special dance and drawing performance in the exhibition space of our festival partner Goethe-Institut, Glasgow on 28 March.

Reflecting on the process of life drawing in motion, Schmitz said:

My duets are more of a working method than a defined performance, which is why they adapt easily to a wide range of contexts, including traditional dance. It is crucial for me not to know who I will be facing as not to lapse into preconceived drawing habits. My sensitivity has to be pushed to the limit, the urgency of the mark making has to flow directly from the eyes to the hands, by-passing the brain. Any learning process has to be purely intuitional and instinctive.

During my live events I often feel I turn into a seismograph of a happening that the audience can experience in real time. This offers the viewer-witness, a wide range of possible focus points: the dance itself, the drawing process–so rarely observed, and of course the relation of the two–the translation process with all its flaws and findings. There are occasions when the music chosen by the dancer determines the duration of the piece. On other occasions the action simply comes to an end when I run out of paper.

In anticipation of Duets, the Pomegranates 2023 curators Iliyana Nedkova and Wendy Timmons said:

We believe that Schmitz’ duets as part of Pomegranates 2023 will offer a new kind of audience experience – when the dance and the music stop usually the audience is left with nothing but their own memory of what they have just seen. This memory is a tangible real trace in black and white, albeit somebody else’s vision against which they can measure their own memory of what they have seen. The movement will linger in the space and the audience will be reluctant to leave, because the traces in charcoal on paper will make the shared moment last. There is so much honesty in Schmitz’s duets because both the dancer and the artist are exposed. They risk displaying all the flaws and failures while also sharing the brief moments of confluence that they have set out to find.


Images: Drawings, charcoal on paper as featured in the exhibition Duets by Gabriel Schmitz. Courtesy of the artist.