by Stephanie Hentschel
Against an urban backdrop, a group of people in costumes rush hurriedly from left to right across the picture. Our gaze, eagerly following the rapid movement, is suddenly arrested by a woman dressed in black – with black hair, high boots and a yellow bag – who is hastily walking in the opposite direction at great speed as well, thus abruptly interrupting the flowing rhythm of the pictorial composition. Astonishingly, it is not the individuals attired in amusing costumes that raise questions in our minds. It quickly becomes obvious that what we are seeing must be a carnival or Mardi Gras scene. For what other reason would a group of people be proceeding along the streets in such a way. But who is the woman? Where is she headed? Why is she not following the others?
David FeBland is undoubtedly a contemporary story teller. Just like many other artists in our day and age, he also seeks new impressions constantly – plucking them directly from real life – impression that large cities in particular generate. He captures frightening, curious, but also harmonious incidents, and in his studio he interprets them in his works solely from memory.
For decades he has had deep roots in New York City and the metropolis on its own offers him with abundant inspiration: but it is not only New York life that inspires him in his continuous exploration of human interaction. Various trips to Europe or completely foreign cultural contexts also provide him with new material for his stories. A single person as an individual amid a vibrant convergence of widely differing people, the loss of privacy, the constantly growing need to integrate oneself into a society that is already tightly interwoven; all of those are themes which drive him on in his search for new motifs and which are seemingly equivalent in almost all parts of the world, as he asserts himself.
More than ever, David FeBland has his finger on the pulse of our time – a time that is characterised by intercultural exchange, increasing proximity of widely differing people who are no longer explicitly separated by national borders and therefore evolve into exciting and inspiring entities, especially in the great metropolises of our world.
In his pictures, FeBland always draws the beholder in very close, allowing him to participate in the curious and fascina-
ting sceneries of a large city, but never completely explaining what is happening. He allows the beholder a certain freedom to imagine how the story might continue. In that way, the latter is put in an observation post permitting him to sneak a quick glance.
The world as a stage setting, the people living in it in leading roles or as extras, their interaction as a modern theatrical production. There is no doubt that David FeBland could be regarded as a contemporary counterpart of the 19th century artists who were equally interested in accurate observation of their environment, modern urban life and the people taking part in it. However, whereas those artists focused their attention mainly on ordinary city dwellers, thus offering the growing middle classes a platform for presenting their day-to-day life, David FeBland focuses on cultural minorities or other extraordinary people, studying their behaviour among and with one another closely and capturing it on canvas for the beholder.
In FeBland’s pictures one definitely cannot expect to find realistic or purely objective observational studies as the beholder is allowed so much scope for interpretation. He creates his works from memory, and their dramaturgical structure is enhanced by details that he invents. In particular, his purposeful use of light reflexes and contrasts with regard to choice of colour as well as mix of motifs results in suspense-packed compositions in which the artist has painstakingly given thought to formal considerations and content. That aspect in particular seems to be the major difference between his paintings and that of the Ashcan School, a group of artists in the early 20th century that has already been mentioned frequently as one of FeBland’s thematic orientation points, whereby those artists were interested exclusively in realistic reproduction of urban life from a distance.
Usually the subjects that David FeBland realises in his pictures using strong colours are snapshots from surprising vantage points, highly evocative of the medium of photography. And movement can almost always be perceived, pushing what is happening in the respective picture towards a dynamic climax and thus reinforcing the impression of the one spontaneous, fleeting moment.
Using various means, the artist simultaneously attempts to conjure up a captivating scene in a painting as well as plumb the depths of what is concealed behind it. He tries to uncover a secret or two himself in a fascinating fashion, and at the same time he creates new puzzles in his pictures, which the beholder is invited to discover. One of the fundamental content elements of David FeBland’s art is that combination of realistic visual action outlined in great detail that the beholder absorbs directly from his works and the atmosphere that he hints at, which additionally gets the beholder involved and prompts him to think about what comes next. The works that are created are a highly detailed reflection of urban life in particular, the people that populate it and how they interact, thus opening up new vantage points for the beholder; oftentimes slightly intensified by the imagination of the artist, but never completely detached from reality.