Staffelbach, Fornara & Reynier

Paintings of skulls at Walder Wyss

There are paintings of skulls hanging in two of the offices of Walder Wyss. They are works by Jean-Marie Reynier. Who is this artist who likes to confront us with death?

You might not expect to find the artist behind the skulls here: Perroy is a pretty wine-growing town between Lausanne and Geneva. Jean-Marie Reynier lives here in an ancient but pretty house and creates what you would not necessarily call pretty art. Even if some of his skulls are drawn with broad, neon-coloured lines and have something child-like about them – they are still skulls.

002 Walder JM Reynier Full
002 Walder JM Reynier Full

Jean-Marie Reynier, why skulls?
For me, the skull is the most powerful symbol of life. It is the hard shell, the static structure that surrounds our brain and protects it. The protection around who we are. No life without a skull.

And why do lawyers like skulls?
I am not exactly sure why Stefano Fornara and Daniel Staffelbach have my skulls in their offices in Lugano und Zurich. But I think you have to be quite brave to like a subject like that and hang it up.

What is brave about it?
The skull confronts us with death, but it also highlights the senselessness of some, what shall we call them, complications ... perhaps lawyers operate on a kind of scale of complications. And perhaps they like to be reminded that, when we are confronted with real problems, we are all the same.

Reynier works mainly at home. Here there are skulls cast in bronze, in paintings on the wall, drawn on stamps, as a 1:1 plastic model, in ceramic as an ashtray, drawn with a broad felt-tip pen in a notebook, tattooed on the back of Reynier’s left hand.

How do your works come about?
It is a long process. Or a short one, depending on how you look at it. I only start when I have everything precisely in my mind, so that I am implementing it more than painting it. Then there is nothing superfluous, no lines, no colours, nothing.

Do you do that for every painting?
For every painting or every series. For example, I completed a series of 50 paintings in 50 days. I was preoccupied with the topic for weeks before that, I read a lot, made notes and sketches and came up with ideas. The works were ready to go in my head when I started painting.

Does it matter to you where your art is displayed?
Of course, I always like to know where my paintings and works are hanging. Ideally, I like to hang the paintings myself – as I did at Walder Wyss. That is part of the work to an extent, like the frame.

And if you think that the art and the surroundings do not go together?
Then I have sometimes refused to sell my works.

“I am not exactly sure why Stefano Fornara and Daniel Staffelbach have my skulls in their offices in Lugano und Zurich. But I think you have to be quite brave to do that.”

An artistic triangle of skulls

The artist Jean-Marie Reynier lives and works in Perroy in the canton of Vaud, he grew up in Lugano and attended art schools there and in Geneva. Reynier is a childhood friend of Stefano Fornara. Fornara has been a partner at Walder Wyss in Lugano since 2021. He specialises in arbitration. There is a small art collection hanging in his office, with Reynier’s work prominently displayed: the skull. Daniel Staffelbach discovered the work of art in a video call with his colleague in the Ticino. A skull like that? He wanted one, too. Staffelbach is a partner in the Commercial and Corporate Law group, and Reynier’s “Tête atomique” has been hanging in his office at Höschgasse in Zurich since May 2022.