Gallery visit: Albertina, Wien

14 April 2017. After a long year without major events regarding the viewing of original art we finally made it to Vienna on April 12, on the one hand in order to prepare an exhibition of my own political caricatures in Groß-Enzersdorf near Vienna (Kunst.Lokal, 2017), on the one hand to see the graphical work of one of my all-time favourite artists, Egon Schiele (*1890-1918, Austria) (Albertina, 2017). The commemorative presentation was meticulous, extensive and drained me of all my energy, something I had never experienced before. Seeing his gouaches and pencil drawings I noticed a threefold split in my respective reactions: a magnetic attraction to most of his works, a strong repulsion occurring with some due to the worrying approach to some subjects chosen by him (naked children in highly unchildlike poses) and a weird indifference regarding the commissioned work following his abrupt rise to world fame immediately before his tragic premature death caused by the Spanish Flu.
In this post I want to concentrate on his outstanding loose drawing and painting techniques, though. No matter how closely I look at his drawings, no exaggeration of body features his style is so famous for seems out of place or out of proportion. Schiele like I think no other painter before and to date after him had an innate infallible sixth sense and uncanny ability to feel and depict the human body and its emotional state. Vara (2009) describes that his viewing position from above – which, surprisingly, seems to have been a novelty at the time – and the extreme foreshortening ensuing from that helped him to draw persons in a distorted way while in fact having correct proportions. The very same effect allowed Schiele to address one of his major concerns, the brevity and frailty of human life. As I hop between looking at the above website and continuing to write this post I realise a strange connection my mind has just made between Schiele’s compositions and Ötzi, the famous stone-age mummy found in the Tyrolean Alps in 1991. I know Ötzi’s characteristics well from an exhibition I curated many years ago at the science museum I used to work for. The connection is so weird, because the extremely well-preserved mummy in its famous distorted position, facial expression and skin colour could have been painted by Schiele without much adaptation (Gostner, 2011) and also because it could not have been a better example for Schiele’s interest in the frailty of human life:

iceman_v2
Samadelli, M. (n.d.) “Iceman”. Source: EURAC Research, Bolzano.

Particularly impressed I was at a series of drawings, which Schiele made on what looks like baking parchment with a very smooth, glossy surface. On this support he was able to paint with gouache in a way which I had discovered for myself during this course using highly diluted acrylics on an acrylics background (Lacher-Bryk, 2016). Look at the self-portrait below for the technique I described just now and also at its posture – its resemblance to Ötzi is almost unbelievable:

Self-Portrait_MET_DP279450
Egon Schiele (1911): “Self-Portrait”. Source: Egon Schiele (1890-1918) [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons
I love the composition, the almost sleepwalking confidence in drawing, mixing and placing colour. In my new course I started a few weeks ago (UPM) I will try and experiment with using what I think were Schiele’s techniques.

Since we had desperately little time at our hands, we had a far too short look at the permanent exhibition “Monet to Picasso” (Albertina, 2017), where I met some of my other favourite painters. I was extremely drawn to the atmosphere in Emil Nolde’s (1867-1956, Duchy of Schleswig) “Moonlit Night” (Nolde, 1914), the humour streaming from Picasso’s work, from drawings to a series of painted plates (Albertina, 2017), and the wonderful choice of colours in “Winter Landscape” painted by Edvard Munch in 1915. It was a good feeling to be able to recognize almost all the painters in the Albertina and I notice an increasingly focused appreciation for their respective merits. Two years ago I would not have thought this possible.

References:

Albertina (2017) Current Exhibitions. Egon Schiele [online]. Albertina, Vienna. Available from: http://www.albertina.at/en/exhibitions/current?ausstellungen_id=1455214727106&j-cc-item=ausstellungen&j-cc-id=1455214727106&j-cc-node=item [Accessed 14 April 2017]

Gostner, P., Pernter, P. Bonatti, G., Graefen, A. and Zink, A.R. (2011) ‘New radiological insights into the life and death of the Tyrolean Iceman’ [abstract] [online]. Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 38, Issue 12, December 2011, pp. 3425–343. Available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305440311002731 [Accessed 14 April 2017]

Kunst.Lokal (2017) Veranstaltungen [online]. Kunst.Lokal, Groß-Enzersdorf. Available from: http://www.kunst-lokal.at/ [Accessed 14 April 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016) Part 4, project 5, exercise 1: Working from drawings and photographs – painting from a working drawing [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 Blog. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/11/24/part-4-project-5-exercise-1-working-from-drawings-and-photographs-painting-from-a-working-drawing/ [Accessed 14 April 2017]

Munch, E. (2015) Winter Landscape [oil on canvas] [online]. Albertina, Wien. Available from: http://www.albertina.at/jart/prj3/albertina/images/cache/a5e12d883dae5f3129eae1d3236f27e3/0x6CEAD10536343B3397EC0061E471E393.jpeg [Accessed 14 April 2017]

Nolde, E. (1914) Monnlit Night [oil on canvas] [online]. Albertina, Wien. Available from: http://www.albertina.at/jart/prj3/albertina/images/cache/033d83f67647857cdfda1a6014e5607b/0xA5A2F44F78EDA9251E01FF9439C37A32.jpeg [Accessed 14 April 2017]

Samadelli, M. (n.d.) Iceman [photo] [online]. EURAC Research, Bolzano. Available from: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2013/10/16/living-relatives-of-otzi-the-iceman-mummy-found-in-austria/#.WPCaK46kJR4 [Accessed 14 April 2017]

Schiele, E. (1911) Self-Portrait [watercolour, gouache and graphite on paper] [online]. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Available from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Self-Portrait_MET_DP279450.jpg [Accessed 14 April 2017]

Vara, S. (2009) Egon Schiele (1890-1918) [blog] [online]. Duke University, Durham. Available from: http://drawingatduke.blogspot.co.at/2009/12/egon-schiele-1890-1918.html [Accessed 14 April 2017]

 

Research point: Figures in interiors

Updated on 12 March 2017 (Harvard referencing)..

7 September 2016. A choice of two or three examples for paintings of persons in interiors is not a lot to gain a comprehensive overview over the subject. On the other hand, a careful selection may allow to see changes in perception of the relationship between rooms and their occupants over the centuries.

First an example for Northern European genre painting, i.e. that period of time starting in  16th century Flanders, when the middle class first came into wealth, which allowed them to become interested in the interiors of their homes and surround themselves with paintings. The everyday situations depicted preferably – i.e. persons in their interiors – exerted a special appeal and became immensely popular at that time (Meagher, 2008).
Having to pick a painting I found that I was eerily uncomfortable with most scenes, no matter how brilliant the painting. For some unknown reason they felt both familiar and totally dark and foreign, so I went for a more lighthearted watercolour by Adriaen van Ostade (1610 – 1685, Dutch Republic) (Fig. 1):

ostade_reading_the_news
Figure 1. Adriaen van Ostade: “Reading the News at the Weavers’ Cottage Department”, 1673, ink and watercolour. Source: Adriaen van Ostade (1610-1685) [Public domain] via The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The scene looks tidy, pleasant and at ease (maybe this is the special appeal to me, overwhelmed by our own situation as I am), the people look well-fed and comparatively well dressed. The weaver’s family is seated in a makeshift arrangement near the open door, presumably in order to allow the reader of the newspaper to see the print. As stated by Meagher (2008) the Dutch Republic was a poineer nation to publish newspapers on a regular basis at a time when being able to read the news and interpret the contents was by no means natural. I guess that one of the purposes of the depicted scene is the presentation of the family as well-educated and involved in the public affairs of the country. By producing a stable triangle consisting of the three grown-ups the primary focal point lies at the centre of the lower half of the open door, which at the same time is one of the brighter areas of the interior. While there is nothing in particular to see in that spot this setup might carry a message, although I might be totally wrong here: By opening the door light, and thus enlightenment, can enter the inside of the house. Both lie at the foundations of a prosperous family and this is what the commissioner of the painting may have had in mind.

When flicking through “Vitamin P2” (Schwabsky, 2011) in order to gain an overview over the trends of the present decade, I got the impression that there might be an increasing interest in fusing interiors of buildings with the interior, so to speak, of their occupants, and even the paintings themselves with the interiors of the buildings they are presented in. It is as if artists were investigating the limits of dissolving boundaries between all insides and outsides. After Vitamin P2 the concept of figures in interiors appeared somewhat outdated.

So I had to go elsewhere for more information. Looking for contemporary examples I came across the following in the Saatchi online gallery, by Sherre Wilson-Liljegren, called “Gallery Visit” (Wilson-Liljegren, n.d.). The style is described as magical realism. There is nothing like a gallery visit to be seen in this painting, two cuddling baboons are seated on a stylish sofa in a living room, which is bare except for an electric fan on the floor and a painting above a tall radiator. I like the setup, the extraordinary idea, the colours and the wonderful light in that painting. There is not a lot I could speculate about on the artist’s intentions for choosing such an arrangement, but it is a nice and at the same time worrying concept that other primates might take over seamlessly from what a failed human species left behind. Here the interior does not fit the occupants at all and this is what creates an impulse to have a closer look at a subjectwise inconspicuous painting.

A more typical example for what a present-day painted representation of figures in an interior might look like I found on Saatchi, too, by Pavel Kryz, “The Television” (Kryz, n.d.). The piece radiates that weird uninvolvedness, which I mentioned before in a number of research posts and which seems to have infected 21th century artists at a pandemic rate. Both the room and the person seem totally exchangeable, there is nothing there to help guess whether the man belongs in that space or was left there by the owner of the room. He seems unable to change anything about his position or the situation and his hovering near the wall radiates discomfort. Personally I find this style unspiring, because I feel that whatever there is to see in such a painting will make no difference to me or the world whatsoever. I rather wish for 21st century artists to take responsibility and get involved with all their strength. At least this is where I want to see myself with my own work.

References:

Kryz, P. (n.d.) The Television [acrylic on canvas] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: https://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-The-television/295200/187012/view [Accessed 7 September 2016]

Meagher, J. (2008) Genre Painting in Northern Europe [online]. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/gnrn/hd_gnrn.htm [Accessed 7 September 2016]

Schwabsky, B. (2011) Vitamin P2. Phaidon Press, London.

van Ostade, A. (1673) Reading the News at the Weaver’s Cottage [watercolour and ink on paper] [online]. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1997.117.10/ [Accessed 7 September 2016]

Wilson-Liljegren, S. (n.d.) Gallery Visit [oil on wood] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: https://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-Gallery-Visit/326795/2225738/view [Accessed 7 September 2016]

 

Gallery visit: Arik Brauer and Alexander Timofeev in the Weihergut gallery

Updated on 7 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

4 August 2016. On 1 August we had an appoinment with our new lawyer in town. Since it is rare for us to be in the city centre at all, we took the opportunity to visit the Weihergut gallery (Galerie Weihergut Linzergasse, 2016). There were two painters on show, who could not be more different. One of them was the multi-talented Viennese phantastic realist Arik Brauer (*1929, Austria). Brauer is an important part of my childhood memories. My parents had one or two records by him in their cupboard and I still love the colourful cover paintings and the wonderfully sensitive songs, all painted, written and performed by him. For his unique style, closely related to that of the old masters, see a series of paintings on display in the Leopold Museum in Vienna, where his work is described in the following way: “… he cultivated a style that was to once again capture the imagination and accommodate the art of storytelling and joy of invention” (2).

The other one was Alexander Timofeev (*1971, St. Petersburgh) (3), whose approach ties in with black romanticism (using techniques intended to produce a frightening atmosphere). In preparation of a series of paintings Timofeev creates sceneries with actors and costumes, takes several super high resolution photographs and paints from those. The resulting hyperrealistic erotic oil paintings are of incredible detail and accuracy, radiating a great talent for conceptualizing and arranging, but the sheer number of large-scale paintings produced in 2016 and already on display in our gallery makes me wonder how he does it. I have to admit that I feel uncomfortable around hyperrealism, no matter how technically proficient.

References:

Galerie Weihergut Linzergasse (2016) Galerie Weihergut Linzergasse [online]. Galerie Weihergut Linzergasse, Salzburg. Available at: http://www.weihergut-linzergasse.at/ [Accessed 4 August 2016]

 

  1. http://www.leopoldmuseum.org/en/exhibitions/59/arik-brauer
  2. http://www.bleaq.com/2015/alexander-timofeev