Super Wetter. Dobar Dan

Herbert Brandl - Super Wetter. Dobar Dan


The paintings of Herbert Brandl

During more than three decades of systematic activity and frequent exhibitions at various destinations, the Austrian painter Herbert Brandl created a notable opus of work. It is enough just to remember how he represented his country at the most respectable world art events, from the Paris Biennale to Document in Kassel, from the Venice Biennale to the one in Sao Paolo, not to mention the series of problematic, panoramic, generational and chronological overviews, for us to understand the breadth of the reception and the enormity of the echo of his opus of work. The exhibition in Split represents a characteristic cross section of his work, however it cannot introduce us to all the aspects and phases of activity, because it only covers the recent section of the past five-six years.
However it is enough to see only a few paintings to determine that the painter Herbert Brandl keeps in mind the specificities of pictorial expression, how in apparent simplicity and purity of frame he succeeds in achieving a relevant effect. Namely, already at first glance we can conclude how he boldly uses various chromatic registers, how he impacts viewers with intensive colour as the carrier of affective impact. Those colours, truth, may be occasionally very open and loud, even shrill and caustic, and sometimes muted and reserved, dim and dull, however it will never leave us indifferent.
No less noticeable is the impact of his temperamental ductus, an expression of individual energy in gestural transmission. Almost in the manner of action painting, Brandl leaves dynamic traces on canvas and paper with his brushstrokes and the free flow of diluted pigment. Particularly interesting in the monotypes is the relationship between the base and coatings, the polarised and contrasted dialogue between white and black, light and dark, but in both cases with strong imprints of personal calligraphy, passionate roles of complex fierce lines.
Along with the distinct colouring and emphasised gestuality, Herbert Brandl expertly uses the format of the frame itself, that is, uses it in proportion with the large surfaces on which he playfully releases all the features of his manual interventions and sensual treatment of the painted layers of colour. It's not so much a case of monumental dimensions or authority that would ensue from an exalted “altar” function, rather a desire and need to bring the viewer into the painted ambiance, to draw him in to share the achieved atmosphere. The imposing frames serve as an invitation to come closer, a challenge to size things up, a call to the breadth of physical and metaphysical space.
All the paintings at the Split presentation do not bear a special name. “Untitled” indicates a serial understanding of the whole, of the fact that works are connected by the experience of a unique cycle. Aside from this, the associative and referential motifs have been intentionally left out, primarily they are truly non-mimetic, abstract paintings about flat solutions in which only the relationship between the smear and lines, tones and nuances suggest spatial plans or layers of penetration into depths. We recall, however, some of the artist’s previous paintings (known to us through reproductions), in which he purposely makes an association to shapes in nature, to the illusion of a river flow or the contours of mountains – particularly the triangle mass of some hill composed of juxtaposed “patches” of colour. Although there are no recognisable signs on the majority of the works in the Split exhibition, I believe that the experience in working with landscapes, efforts to achieve atmospheric or light effects are also notable in parts of non-figurative orientations. This is particularly the case in the series of monotypes, when forms indicate the organic origin, vegetable or biomorphic visual initiatives. After all, the very movement of the painter’s hand follow rhythms and forms structures in which it echoes impulses from nature, manifesting in the forms of universal proportions.
As an exception to the whole we’ll point out two paintings with images of animals with spotted hair, one en face and the other in profile. Judging by the artist’s iconography these would be hyenas, beasts that he’s also used in some of this other pieces, even in sculptures. There is no doubt that in this way he has added through the fierceness of the gesture and pungency of colour a corresponding motif correlative, because he purposely introduces a new component of rashness and agonality, not to say virulence and aggressiveness. Given the dynamic character of Brandl’s expression, it wouldn’t be surprising if he continued examining various figurative challenges.
However our task is not to predict or prophesy, rather to welcome the presence of a significant Austrian artist in our midst, and to confirm that he brings with him paintings of distinct energetic charge and aesthetic impressiveness. The exhibition “Super Wetter. Dobar dan.” with its title alone offers an opportunity to spend time together, and with its creative level gives reasons for empathetic acceptance and a response appropriate to the offered visual challenge, so we conclude this preface with an expression of sincere welcome.

Tonko Maroević 

   Herbert Brandl
   Untitled, 2013
   oil on canvas
   170 x 218 cm
    Courtesy Galerie nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder, © Photo: Markus Wörgötter, Vienna

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