True friendship is like phosphorescence,
                                                                                                     it shines better when everything is dark.
                                                                                                                      Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)


On analysing the work of an artist we first look at his life circumstances, his time, the context in which his work developed, the influences of other artists and the technical progresses that have marked his way of shaping reality or fiction. Many of the explanations are given in the form of a narration, a discourse or an anecdote that ultimately leads us to the origin and to the reason behind the artist's interest in a theme or concrete materials; it is the theory inspired by the madeleine that Marcel Proust expounds in his novel, In Search of Lost Time (A la recherche du temps perdu).

Marc Egger was born in 1939 in the Swiss village of Mühlehorn (canton of Glarus) on Lake Walenstadt. Following the theory of the madeleine, we could imagine Marc as a child discovering for himself the phenomena of phosphorescence in nature by seeing a glow-worm, a small luminous insect, in the dark of the night. This was a first investigation that awoke his curiosity and introduced him to a microcosm full of surprises and enigmas. The images of the night were also a trigger, awakening the young Marc's thirst for knowledge. The starry sky with its magnificent vault of heaven initiated a call from the infinite, a coded message in the twinkling of the stars, a presentiment, an intuition, on observing, by chance, a shooting star, falling rapidly towards its disappearance. The name of each one of the constellations and its mythological history was the next step in the quest for knowledge that has since never ceased.

This, his small country, this idyllic place in the Alps, stands in sharp contrast to the big cities of Zurich, Paris, New York, where Marc Egger would also live. This duality exists and could already be found in his paintings of landscapes where mountains and lakes compose a juxtaposed image: the lake reflects the mountain peaks and slopes, giving a mirror image, turning height into depth, solidity into an aqueous mirage, fluctuating vibration into a permanent presence, a duality of opposites, opposites that do not contradict each other but form a harmonious unity. Change, movement as the motor of life, underpins the philosophy of Heraclitus, “the obscure of Ephesus”. In Marc Egger’s work this never-ending change is clear, expressing itself through aphoristic images like visual antithesis (light, darkness), visual oxymoron (dark light, black sun). His motto is “Change is hope”.

Egger's first influences were transmitted through the Zurich school of arts and crafts and its teachers, heirs of the spirit of the Bauhaus school. His first paintings respond to a tentative construction in which the elements of the alpine landscape, his native land, disintegrate into simple geometric motifs and in which the colour has great importance (Cold Landscape, 1957). His mythological references, knowledge of philosophy, and study of modern and ancient art history unite to produce brilliant results during a period of search for a personal language, even though one hears in it the echo of artists like Max Ernst and Paul Klee (Ahriman, 1957). Dadaism and surrealism are the medium in which Marc Egger grew as an artist. He soon found new definitions and trends through the personal experiences he lived during his travels and stays in Paris, Milan, Rome and especially New York, where he established a studio, met Abstract Expressionists and, later on, artists from the Pop Art movement, a reaction to action painting. It was against the background of North American Pop Art that Marc Egger continued with his art work, interpreting the images of publicity, consumer articles and luxury goods, transforming them into art icons of our time, an exercise not devoid of a certain irony and critical spirit towards consumer society. The blown-up vision of cars (Carscape, 1962) and aeroplanes (Planescape, 1965), with its fine irony, is inherited from Marcel Duchamp, considered to be the father of Conceptual Art, Pop Art and of Action Art: Fluxus, happening and performance.

Egger alternates between Switzerland and New York, holding exhibitions of his work in diverse art galleries. At the same time he starts in the field of collecting, acquiring works of other artists, first as a hobby, then out of an affinity with contemporary artists of the same generation, and later out of an inner conviction of the values that art embodies. The collection is currently shown on loan at the Kunsthaus Glarus (Switzerland) and includes works by Josef Albers, Joseph Beuys, Max Bill, Piero Dorazio, Max Ernst, Dan Flavin, Sam Francis, Keith Haring, David Hockney, Bruce Nauman, Barnett Newman, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Julian Schnabel, George Segal, Richard Serra, Daniel Spoerri, Antoni Tapies and Andy Warhol, among others.

At the beginning of the seventies, Egger and his family decided to spend their summers in Spain, first in Horta de San Juan, the village where Picasso, in 1898, together with his friend Manuel Pallares discovered the peaceful life of the rural world and, in 1909, in the company of Fernande Olivier, started his period of cubist painting. Marc Egger bought a house in ruinous state and reconstructed it bit by bit. Years later, he purchased the old olive mills, Molinos de las Cuevas, in Torre del Compte (Teruel), turning the spaces into studios and living quarters. The landscapes of the Puertos de Beceite, Matarraña and the sierras of Maestrazgo attract this and other artists, who also spend long periods in the area, such as Mel Ramos, a representative of North American Pop Art. Another friend and artist with whom he coincides there is Miguel Rasero of Cordoba.


Marc Egger´s interest in phosphorescence started during his second return voyage from New York to Europe, when on board a boat he was able to observe the radar system and its workings. This view of the green light sweeping the dark round screen, detecting objects that reflect the radio waves emitted, produced in him a revelation that soon after would inspire him to paint the Radar, using phosphorescent pigments for the first time. This type of pigment is a powerful tool that Marc Egger uses as his own expressive medium, even though only a couple of colours (green and red) were available at the beginning, he was later able to use a broader spectrum.

The changing aspect of live is reproduced in the essence of Marc Egger´s work. His paintings and sculptures, his furniture or his mobiles and stabiles are also changing, diverse, variable; they depend on the light and darkness. Day and night. Light and phosphorescent contrast. Reception and emission. Voice and echo. Action and reaction. Observation and mediation. Time and space. The artist tells us though his work that not all is unchangeable, nothing is what it seems, nothing has a univocal and one way sense; there are hidden realities, occult appreciations revealed to us with the passing of the time, as the darkness falls, with the coming of the night. The change is slow, gradual and in constant flux, panta rhei.

The movement of the clouds, the study of their formations and their changes were study material of the romantic painters; later the impressionists tried to capture fleetingness through the light and changes in luminosity with techniques like pointillism or with a precise brushstroke accompanied with complimentary colours. Marc Egger is an heir to these scientific painters' trials. With his luminous paintings he opens the door to a new concept of space and, perhaps even more interestingly, a new concept of time, the fourth dimension. The temporality, the permanence of phosphorescent emission is consolidated in the work of this artist, who has interpreted the light spectrum in its entirety. The attentive observer is able to step into a new dimension. The meditative experience of the spectator is the key to completing Marc Egger's innovative contribution to the world of art.

Another aspect we find in Egger's work is the constant interest in the universe. The paintings in the New Horizons (1996) series offer us visions of a meteor shower or constellations and far away galaxies. In Viaje Nocturno (1991) the moons are gradually dissolving. In short, they are glances through a giant telescope that brings us close to the idea of the Big Bang, to the theory of the origin and the creation of matter. The black spots of New Worlds (1995) draw us to tiny holes, leaving us to fall into unfathomable and unknown realities.
On taking a retrospective look at Marc Egger’s work, we can also perceive a type of to-ing and fro-ing, a pendulum movement, constant and regular, like the needle of a metronome that moves between the near and the concrete: his alpine landscape or the reaped fields of Horta de San Juan, the personal and peculiar microcosm that surrounds the artist, and the far away and extreme, the macrocosm, the infinity of that which is more abstract and distant: constellations, nebulas, spaces out of limits.

Marc Egger offers us this double maximalist appreciation, enhanced by the play of light (off-on) and by the permanence of the phosphorescent phenomenon: the luminescence of the stars or the luminosity of the glow-worm, distant existences almost impossible to imagine, and presences that are close and tangible but just as or more magical and enigmatic. A zoom between futurist and organic.

After April of 2003, when Marc Egger suffered a massive heart attack in New York, from which he fortunately recovered at the side of his wife Andrea Zurek, also an artist, Egger turned his view towards the outer space, intensifying his interest in nebulous universes and heavenly spirals. Intuited and unexplored spaces, like the Oort cloud or the Cluster satellites, flying in a pyramid-like formation and studying the earth's magnetosphere, were themes in his paintings. In Fragment (2007), Egger contrasts the vision with light, where the fine vertical brushstrokes show what at first sight could be a wheat field ready to harvest, while in the dark, a stellar universe appears, where the solar wind falls over stars and comets.

This duality, occultation and then the discovery of other dimensions, carries an unsuspected and surprising potential that makes this artist living in Sitges the first of the astro-luminists. Like the luminist painters in love with the Mediterranean landscape and light, Egger was taken by the spectacle of the night sky, the cloak of darkness and the phosphorescence of the universe, intimating that other worlds are possible.

Isidre Roset i Juan
Art critic