Psychedelic chalets and sexual liberation – these were some of the motifs of the Swiss pop art movement that a leading museum has resurrected.
Born in England, I've lived in Switzerland since 1994. I trained as a graphic designer in Zurich between 1997 – 2002. More recently I have moved on to work as photo editor and joined the team at swissinfo.ch in March 2017.
An exhibition at the Aargauer Kunsthaus offers a comprehensive overview of Swiss pop art from 1962 to 1972, featuring around 270 paintings, sculptures, collages, photographs and objects by 51 artists from throughout the country.
New motifs and references accompanied the boom of pop art within the Swiss art scene in the early 1960s. The striking colours, simplicity of form and purity in style were decidedly different from the prevailing abstract art. Swiss pop art expressed the young pop artist's unfettered lifestyle.
Pop art’s focus on mass culture, including fashion, pop music and current events, is a recurring theme in the exhibition. Another is the portrayal of women in advertising, ranging from miniskirts and bikinis to the women’s movement and sexual liberation.
A special aspect of Swiss pop art is the incorporation of folkloristic pictorial traditions, be it by drawing on typically Swiss imagery or by borrowing from local forms of folk art. Samuel Buri draws on the indigenous image of the Swiss chalet, which he represents in a grid and ecstatic colour combinations, as in “Chalet psychédélique” (1967). Barbara Davatz presents rural postcard images in excessive colours à la Warhol in her hand-coloured photo series “Souvenirs from Appenzell” (1968).
Other concerns aside from typical Swiss landscape motifs are advancing urbanisation, urban sprawl and the development of overbuilt nature, for example in the works of Max Matter and Jean-Claude Schauenberg.