Christoph Hänsli


Christoph Hänsli (*1963) is a Swiss conceptual artist using traditional painting as his principal medium. The everyday objects he chooses to paint could hardly be more commonplace: obsolete light switches, unmade beds, half-empty beer glasses and piled up archival boxes. Ephemerality and absence are central themes in Hänsli’s work. None of his paintings contain a person, but are portraits of sorts nevertheless—infused with the absurdity of our earthly existence. Without pathos or sentimentality, these objects show humanity adrift in a world that only appears to be well-ordered. Hänsli’s works, executed with a meticulous technique reminiscent of the old masters, alert us to an everyday (analog) world that we have ceased to notice. The artist does not exercise any compositional liberties but always renders these objects life-size and in neutral lighting, making it all the easier for the viewer’s personal memories and recognition to take effect.

Hänsli first attracted international attention with his epic work Mortadella (2006—08). It consists of 332 small-format paintings, each depicting the slice of a sausage—combining scientific precision and methodology with painterly freedom and subtle humor. The absurdity of the project is easily overcome by its technical brilliance and broad scope for interpretation. Together with John Berger, a friend and admirer from 1996 until Berger’s death in 2017, Hänsli published Mortadella as a widely acclaimed book.

Christoph Hänsli was born in Zurich in 1963 and attended the Lucerne School of Art and Design from 1984 to 1988, followed by studies in film theory and the history of photography at Zurich University. Since 1997 his work has been extensively exhibited in solo and group shows.