The Enormous Room, 2014 – 2017


Helmut Federle

Acrylic paint on oak wood panels, silk screen print
11 x 21 m

© 2014, Helmut Federle

Image copyright Stefan Altenburger

Unrest is part of the magic.

One of Helmut Federle’s favourite words is “climatic”. In an interview he stated: “Colour transports climate.” His painting of the auditorium at Swiss Re Next is meant to look “climatic rather than geometric”. With a team of assistants, and with the help of the restorer Roland von Gunten, Federle painted it completely in shades of green and yellow that are familiar from his paintings. The yellow seems to give the whole room a warm, gentle glow. The room, in its very completion, appears incomplete. The actions of the artist are still visible, the rough gestures of the tools have all left their traces and remain unrefined. Several sections of the walls are paler than others to engage interplay with the movable LED panels which are a significant changing element of the room. All the acts of artistic expression captured in the auditorium reference the process of change. What’s so special about this installation is a sense of having fallen through a Helmut Federle painting into a 3-dimensional Federle room. He named it The Enormous Room after a novel by US writer and poet E. E. Cummings (1894-1962) that describes the comings and goings, personalities and interactions the author experienced as a soldier and carried with him thereafter in the “enormous room” of his mind. “I read Cummings’ poems as a young student in Basel. And they made a deep impression on me.”