The essential elements of Manuel Wahlen's work are space, bodies, and movement. Born in Bern, Switzerland, in 1990, he studied at John Neumeier's famed ballet school in Hamburg and performed in German theaters such as Würzburg and Gießen. In 2014 he traded his dancing shoes for a paintbrush and began training as a stage painter. With this change, he pursued a long-held interest in the art of painting. Still a ballet dancer, he not only self-taught himself numerous artistic methods but also sought and developed his concepts in apparently infinite sketch series. After completing his second training, he returned to the theater, working on various productions in Switzerland and Germany.
Wahlen joins a long art historical heritage by exploring problems of body, space, movement, hold, and fall. His artistic investigation focuses on the fundamental painting issues of capturing temporal processes and simultaneity.
Wahlen confronts the human condition as such on a deeper level. He establishes his characters in their own universe, familiar yet odd, utterly distinct from our own and distinguished by a melancholy, mysterious aura. The artist alludes to deeper psychological processes by superimposing movement patterns. Layering individual stances, borrowed from photographs, he creates sequences that can be interpreted in any given order resulting in an endless loop. His figures are stuck in an eternal state of restlessness, evocative of his compatriots Böcklin and Bailly. Dark colors like blue and black contrast with the gently lighted nude figures, which remain oblivious to one other and the viewer. The observer is cast in the role of the voyeur, witnessing very intimate moments, through a delicate play of glances, gazes and gestures. At the same time, Whalen’s restless figures are a call to introspection.