The Future of Painting at ESSL Museum

Does painting have a future? How has painting changed recently? What forward-looking positions are there in Austria? Exhibition “The future of painting” at ESSL Museum, based on 23 new artistic positions, will provide answers to these questions.

The Future of Painting, installation view. Photo:

The Future of Painting, installation view. Photo:

People have been proclaiming “the end of painting” for over 100 years. Most recently there have been controversial debates on the meaningfulness and future of painting.  Against this background, in spring 2014 the Essl Museum called on Austrian and Austria-based artists to apply for participation in the exhibition with their works. Painting as well as graphic art could be submitted. Out of 756 applications, the Essl Museum’s curatorial team led by Günther Oberhollenzer made a preliminary selection of some 50 artists, who were visited in their studios all over Austria. From this, 23 artistic positions were chosen for the exhibition. The diversity and quality of the artistic positions and also the impressive number of applications show that painting and graphic art still play an essential role in contemporary art.

Ines Agostinelli works with installations, photography and drawing. The exhibition will show her remarkable drawings. On large-format canvases on an acrylic ground, she creates long, stretched out graphite drawings of organic-looking forms and patterns. They are an expression of intimate feelings, of individual memories, thoughts and stories that remain mysterious and opaque to the viewer.

Alfredo Barsuglia explores the boundaries of painting and goes into the room with it. In his paintings and installations, which are always site-specific – thus in the Essl Museum too – he engages in a play of confusion between appearance and being, between illusion and reality. It is never a case of the simple presentation of a single work. Barsuglia devises complex stories; each work, each painting becomes an indispensable component within a larger whole.

The Syrian artist Adel Dauood sees his paintings and drawings as a personal confrontation with war and violence, with pain and death in his homeland, which he was forced to flee. Dauood’s imagery is never obvious, never striking or unambiguous, but remains in flux, allows figurative elements to flow into abstract. “For me painting is a kind of rebellious reaction to pain and cruelty,” says the artist.

Cäcilia Falk’s paintings are directly fresh, reduced and almost naive. With her humorous, carefree language, she brings a kind of painting to contemporary art that is very different from what is generally to be seen in the art business. The artist has retained or rediscovered an intuitive language, a “direct, momentary painting,” as she calls it, and her sensual love of this way of painting can be recognised on every sheet, every canvas.

In their old-master chiaroscuro technique, the large-format ink works by Irina Georgieva are reminiscent of famous art-history models. But in her portraits Georgieva does not seek a representative pose, rather she shows normal people from our times. Alongside this, in puzzling pictorial inventions the artist sensitively and imaginatively analyses the curation, exhibiting and observation of art or also the role of the art market in our society.

The woodcut is an artistic medium that one hardly encounters in contemporary art any longer. Lena Göbel makes it clear what tremendous force can still be contained in this traditional technique. She works with hand printing and laminates the printed paper on canvas in order to work on them further with painting. The life-sized, roughly hewn printing blocks and wood reliefs are particularly impressive.

Clear forms, lines and surfaces determine Suse Krawagna’spainting. The perception of everyday architectural details often serve as the starting point for the artist: “I lift these things out of the three-dimensional space of an urban, i.e. social reality and transfer them into a new space of negotiation, a space of possibility of painting, in which they are relieved of their original function and reinterpreted.” Thus Krawagna develops a repertoire of reduced, abstract forms that can relate to one another in their variation.

In his work Eric Kressnig pursues a system of order, of clear, geometric forms and minimal deviations. The artist uses a precisely defined vocabulary of colour and signs, which he constantly varies. He paints the sides of the canvases, making the paintings appear like objects as a result of their depths. He takes the painted areas into the room too, and develops spatial objects out of simple wooden panels.

Looking at Isabella Langer’s paintings demands time and concentration. Her pictures depend on slowing down our gaze in order to have an effect going beyond the moment. Painted in egg tempera, the works, built up from innumerable fine layers of colour, which are repeatedly wiped away, overpainted and reapplied. As if out of a mist on the almost white canvases, gradually the beach, the sea, a wall or a group of people appear, only to disappear again at the next moment.

Matthias Lautner’s people appear to be resting in themselves, lost in thought, following a different feeling of time and space. Fragile and turned in on themselves, they never make contact with the observer. Some are very close to the edge of the pictures, others almost lose themselves in the breadth of the pictorial space. Art history references, particularly to the Romantic age, are unmistakeable. The artist creates atmospheric landscape spaces that are determined by the paint and the painting process.

Larissa Leverenz paints and draws, she makes prints and collages on thin wooden panels, whose natural graining forms the background. Sometimes she makes incisions into the panels or extends them into installations. The artist is the quizmaster, but these are not stories that she is presenting, but pictures of scenes and fragments. We encounter flying people, uncanny beings and strange objects, mysterious wall constructions and peculiar apparatus.

The artworks by the artist couple marshall!yeti (Ferdinand “Marshall” Karl and Gerald Y Plattner) are small Polaroid photos. The couple is the unlimited protagonist: they stage themselves against changing backgrounds always in the same pose. marshall!yeti use photo overpainting to give the Polaroids an additional level. They paint and draw on the photographic original spontaneously yet well thought out, they strengthen and emphasise, overpaint and delete details.

A beach on the Danube or the trotting track at the Vienna Krieau racecourse: Leo Mayer draws the pictorial motifs from his immediate surroundings. The beach is bathed in warm, shimmering summer light, the Danube gleams in ultramarine. The term “in the manner of the old masters” could probably be stretched to describe his paintings; the panorama-like, occasionally surreal-seeming motifs are atmospheric and painted in dense, luminous colours that sometimes become independent and turn into an abstract but very calculated gesture.

Robert Muntean paints representational souvenir pictures as abstract-atmospheric colour spaces. The pictures appear to represent a moment that includes the before and after and leaves the viewer uncertain whether the motif is just composing itself or is on the point of dissolving. Human figures evaporate in exuberant painting, foreground and background appear irrelevant, the transitions between the bodies and the surrounding space are fluid, the contours permeable.

Peter Nachtigall stacks up innumerable pictures and books in his studio in rows of shelves reaching to the ceiling. Whether abstract, figurative, gestural, graphic or monochrome, the artist attempts to go through all the possibilities of painting, and for this has created the form of a personal picture archive. In the exhibition, the individual pictures from the archive are combined in larger units – treated like a three-dimensional object, they become part of an installation.

Alfons Pressnitz paints natural landscapes. For him, however, nature is not a blissful landscape of desire, not an untouched wilderness. Luminous colours show nature untouched, rubbish and refuse lying around. Like a collage, composed of several pictorial motifs, seams and transitions remain visible. The props are fragmentary and scrappy. There is no romantic idyll. “You can say a lot about people through the landscape,” Pressnitz stresses.

Vika Prokopaviciute is an abstract painter and her work is distinguished by an exceptional feeling for colour, form and composition. The paintings are non-representational, even if there are repeated echoes of figurative forms. Prokopaviciute creates dense accents of concentrated colour and delicate elements of drawing paired with fine, almost monochrome areas. Condensing and dissolution, concentration and great emptiness alternate with one another.

Thomas Riess is a collector of pictures. He has a store of numerous illustrations from magazines, newspapers and old books. They are the working material for new drawings, collages and paintings, in order “to call the relationship to reality into question,” as he himself emphasises. The primary exploration takes place graphically, with some motifs and ideas – such as the “flying blurs” – being taken over into large-format paintings. Riess achieves a grandiose trick by inscribing (masked) faces and bodies into a black canvas ground using a white correcting tape roller (Tipp-Ex).

“Pictures from the EGO – soul photos, no more and no less,” writes Bianca Maria Samer of her work – exclusively self-portraits, which confront us with the life and with the physical and psychological suffering of a person, unvarnished, without a filter, direct and painfully. The directness of Samer’s language, the complete absence of distance in her painterly illustration are shocking and disturbing. Samer is self-taught, having being painting in acrylics for only a few years.

In Patrick Roman Scherer’s drawings everything is deemed worthy of depiction: a sofa, a wire-mesh fence, an electricity pylon, a floor-cleaning machine. Most of the small pages read like an artists’ sketchbook. It becomes interesting when the artist goes into space with his drawings, when a large sheet of paper turns into a picnic blanket, set with plates, glasses and cakes full of abstract structures and figurative stories.

Martin Veigl’s painting shows everyday scenes in the urban environment. In their unusual colourfulness the people seem as if illuminated by searchlight; garish and close to the edge of the picture they come towards us. Veigl manages to free himself rapidly from his models and inspirations and to find his own painterly pictorial ideas. He allows himself to drift, allows the boundaries between figuration and abstraction to blur.

Victoria Vinogradova’s drawings are also reminiscent of an artist’s sketchbook: the pictorial repertoire is exceptionally diverse: some motifs recur and are related to one another anew. A new drawing develops out of the preceding one, says the artist, who sees her work as a continuous process. The figurative image language on these sheets reminds one of Socialist Realism, but Vinogradova always remains ambiguous, mysterious and enigmatic.

“When I stand in front of the canvas everything must be possible, there are no boundaries, I can hope for, take a chance on everything,” says Christiane Wratschko. Her pictorial language of form has something expressively gestural but sometimes also contemplatively peaceful about it. The areas of colour create an atmosphere of shimmering light and nature; alongside the abstract pictures, above all animals and people, but also echoes of landscapes can be discovered. The artist is in search of her very own language of form, beyond current trends in painting. This results in authentic and genuine works.
The exhibition is taking place as part of the “emerging artists” exhibition series.

03.10.2014 – 08.02.2015
Curator: Günther Oberhollenzer

Contemporary Art

An der Donau-Au 1
3400 Klosterneuburg / Vienna

TUE-SUN:   10 a.m. to 6 p.m., WED:  10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Monday closed, except on national holidays.
Credit to the featured image:

One thought on “The Future of Painting at ESSL Museum

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s