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The exhibition at Hangar-7 this year once again focuses on painting and demonstrates the broad range of its potential as well as the heterogeneity of artistic formal languages and pictorial conceptions.
A text by Silvie Aigner
The paintings reveal the diversity of the medium: from the engagement with the formal possibilities and techniques of painting per se, the sounding out of colour, the build-up of the composition from many layers of paint, out of which the motifs develop from the background of the picture, through to the setting of thematic focal points. While naturalistic representation prevails for the most part, the artists develop their own world on the canvas, seeking to take subjects and motifs to another, perhaps unfamiliar, level, translating their perception of reality in an interplay of figurative and abstract pictorial elements. Some of the works do indeed have references to art history, such as 20th-century modernism as well as French landscape painting of the 18th and 19th centuries. The interesting thing here is not the extent to which this tradition of painting is perpetuated, but the extent to which it is expanded in their artistic practice and reinterpreted from the perspective of the present. There are also painters who work with a very contemporary aesthetic, some of whom also reflect the influence of digital media. One striking aspect of contemporary painting as a whole is that the examination of the medium and its immanent parameters, which are negotiated on a formal-aesthetic level, are more prominent than addressing explosive social, political and ecological issues. And yet these are not entirely left out, because ultimately the artist is always a seismograph of the present. Therein also lies the quality of art and painting in particular. While it may arise against a time horizon, it steps out of that context and always reaches beyond its actual present.
The exhibition entitled „...and it feels good“ also allows us to simply focus on the pleasure of painting per se, on colour, but also on the use of its material quality. Yet, on closer inspection, none of the works stick to these parameters.
Umberto Eco spoke of the openness of the artwork that is generated by a new kind of organisation of reality in the painting and the artistic process per se. Yet is painting, beyond that, a kind of reflexive diary of what is experienced, of the perception of things, situations, sensory impressions that appear suddenly and refer to nothing but oneself, sometimes giving the viewer the notion of having encountered the essence of nature, of life per se – an elemental essence? The challenge of describing or depicting these notions is part of an immanent artistic process and also occupied Jean-Paul Sartre when presenting the realisation of his novel character, the historian Antoine Roquentin, in the face of a chestnut root: „The world of explanation and reasons is not that of existence [...]. The function doesn‘ t explain anything. I sensed morosely that I had no means of understanding. Yet there it was.“1 The search for an adequate form of representation encompassing both perception and sensation – even if the figurative motif is in the foreground – will eventually lead to a detachment from a literally specific image. Painting, says the Austrian artist Jürgen Messensee, „is a method of thinking in itself. It‘s fantastic and allows us to operate in a language that transcends space and time and gives us the ability to even understand and talk about the world.“2 Or as Umberto Eco put it: „An open work of art confronts itself with the challenge of giving us an image of discontinuity: it doesn‘t tell it, it is it.“3
The pictures result from the process of constantly examining visual possibilities, through the interest of the artists in reflecting on the medium, on their structures and pictorial conceptions. The pictorial space evolves in some paintings by means of conventional depth illusion and in others through the superimposition of paint layers. This is achieved on the one hand in a completely unpretentious manner, without any superficial effects, and on the other hand through the impact of the colours and the sometimes remarkable size of the canvases, with irrepressible power and spatial presence. Many pictures possess a certain enigmatic and mysterious quality. One expects something to happen, something strange, wondrous, symbolic. The focus of the images is often on the human being, but the individuality of the persons frequently remains hidden – like the insecurity that tries to hide behind the impeccable mask. Even in the most detailed portraits, behind the most chic attire or the most self-confident pose, something elusive always remains. The pictures raise questions but do not provide answers and, in the best sense of the word, open up new spaces of meaning. And to quote Jürgen Messensee once more: „It‘s one of the privileges of art, painting as well as music, that it generates a reality that didn‘t exist previously – it‘s a discipline to understand.“4
1 Jean-Paul Sartre, Der Ekel, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1981, S. 153.
2 Gespräch mit Jürgen Messensee, Atelier Wien, April 2014.
3 Umberto Eco, Das offene Kunstwerk, Frankfurt 1973, S. 165.
July 29 2022 until October 16 2022