Artist  

 

Christian Ludwig Attersee - Biography

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Biographical Notes

Attersee’s main activity is painting, but he is also active as a stage designer, musician, and writer. He lives and works in Vienna, on the Semmering, in St. Martin on the Raab in Austria, and on the Spanish island of Majorca.
Attersee was born as Christian Ludwig in Bratislava on August 28, 1940.
The family relocated to Upper Austria one year before the end of the Second World War, where the parents and their two sons at times lived together on a houseboat on the Danube. While in secondary school in Linz on the Danube, Attersee began to write novelettes, songs, which he set to his own music, to draw comics, and design stage sets. His deafness in one ear frustrated his career as a musician and singer – Attersee remained an autodidact. He is a passionate sailor who has won countless international regattas. Water and weather are themes which are present in the paintings throughout his life.
After finishing his studies at the Akademie für angewandte Kunst in Vienna (1957 to 1963, master class with Eduard Bäumer), the artist took the name Attersee in 1966 as his childhood years on lake Attersee had left their mark on him and he inscribes this name in his paintings of the second half of the nineteen-sixties like an advertising logo. The transcription of everyday objects into terms of art is enhanced by their return to “real” everyday life, which distinguishes him from most Pop Art artists with whom his work is occasionally associated. His object-inventions by no means reflect an artificial end in themselves, they are meant to bridge the gap to the object – the Speisekugeln (Food Balls) or the Attersteck (Atter Cutlery), for example. Whereas the Actionists rub salt in the wounds of a decaying social system, Attersee is interested in the creation of expanded worlds whose latent potential can be tapped by the power of individual imagination. The underlying motif of death often found in Austrian art finds no foothold in Attersee’s art; his primary driving force is creative, never destructive.
After a one-year stay in Berlin from 1965 to 1966, during which he completed his work on the book Komm mit nach Österreich, Ein Führer durch Österreich für ausserirdische Wesen (Come with us to Austria, a Guide to Austria for Extraterrestrial Beings) together with Gerhard Rühm, Attersee began to transfer his object-inventions to canvas and paper. Here we find evidence which confirms Attersee’s independent role in contemporary art. More than by the works of his painter colleagues and his friends among the Viennese Actionists, the young Attersee was impressed by the members of the Wiener Gruppe (Viennese Group), the poets Friedrich Achleitner, Konrad Bayer, H. C. Artmann, Gerhard Rühm, and Oswald Wiener, whose passionate handling of the language and its creative possibilities are echoed not only in the titles of Attersee’s paintings, but also in his texts.
In the series of photographs created between 1967 and 1972, Attersee appears as an androgynous entity symbolizing the male-female duality found in everyone; he also takes up the subject of homosexuality and its signification as a social taboo for the first time. The series is characterized by the thoroughly narcissistic concept of “smashing beauty.” For Attersee beauty is not only defined by sexuality; he sets, as it were, “beauty upon beauty” – as when flowers are augmented with piglet-blossoms, for example. In the photo series, as well as the graphics, collages, and images on canvas, which were created contemporaneously, the object-inventions find their way into Attersee’s visual world.
Since the early nineteen-sixties the artist has mostly combined his work into series: In Triebstör (Drive Disruption) and Draufhausen (Up-for-it Town) (1976–77) he investigates the “sexuality of images” and variable structure of the body; Der Slawe ist die herrlichste Farbe (The Slav is the Most Wonderful Color) (1979–80) is a critical examination of racism; Jesus übt (Jesus Practices) (1996) deals with the subject of guilt in Christianity. Certain motifs accompany Attersee throughout all of his work to date – the role of women in society, for example. It is the artist’s task to invent new freedoms and Attersee acknowledges his Eve, his Carmen, when he recreates the world according to their rules. Heaven and water correspond to man and woman – the natural elements; power structures are to be questioned and brought down. Interaction with the components which constitute daily life, such as religion or racism, but also food or man’s alleged vulnerability flow into Attersee’s visual world to continually be questioned anew.
Eroticism is the highest form of art for Attersee and is the essence of all of his artistic work, as it were – for Attersee art is a form of the erotic.
Film naturally offers Attersee the possibility of unifying his different forms of expression; the 1969 film Gruss Attersee (Greeting Attersee) (directors: Rosemarie and Christoph Stenzel) describes Attersee’s world of objects in images, actions, and texts; Attersee also sings his Atterseelied (Attersee Song) in the film.
After a further stay in Berlin from 1971 to 1972, the artist designed his first stage set for Heathcote Williams’s Wechselstrom/Gleichstrom (AC/DC) (director: Wolfgang Bauer) which premiered at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg in 1973. In 1975 Attersee’s works were shown at the 9th Biennale in Paris and, two years later, at the Kassel documenta.
An exceedingly productive period in Paris from 1978 to 1979 was followed by an active period of sailing as well as an artistic phase in the context of an Atlantic crossing around the end of 1979, during which the series Atlantik-Tage (Atlantic Days) was created.
The multitalented Attersee conquered new terrain, on the occasion of an exhibition tour in 1982, with the Attersee-Matinee, a musical matinee which until 1984 took place annually at the Wiener Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts. Musical appearances followed: piano solos, together with the jazz singer Christine Jones (1983: CD Weihnacht zu zweit [Christmas for Two]), with various musicians (1985: CD Atterseezigeuner [Attersee-Gypsies] at an exhibit at Munich’s Galerie Klewan and 1988: the single Rampi Rampi), and with numerous artist friends (1986: during Linz’s “Ars Electronica” Attersee und seine Freunde – rücksichtslose Unterhaltung (Attersee and Friends – Inconsiderate Entertainment) with Gerhard Rühm, Oswald Wiener, Hermann Nitsch, Markus Lüpertz, Emmet Williams, and others; 1995: An evening of Maler- und Dichtermusik (Music by Painters and Poets) on the occasion of the one-hundred year anniversary of the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum with Markus Lüpertz, Hermann Nitsch, Gerhard Rühm, among others). In 1984 Attersee represented Austria with a single presentation at the Venice Biennale. In 1986 he redesigned Vienna’s Café Ring with Mürrisch liebt Gotik – Brauter’s Weg, ein Weisheiter (Gloominess Loves the Gothic – Brauter’s Way, a Wise One) – large-format silk-screens designed specially for the location. In the nineteen-eighties, Attersee’s work became increasingly pictorial whereas the graphic element was reduced to playing with black contours. Since the mid-nineteen-seventies, Attersee sees himself as one of the founding figures of the new figurative style of painting; his approach to the subject is comparable to that of his German colleagues Jörg Immendorff or Markus Lüpertz. There is, however, a world of difference between the ironic, poetic, sometimes playful, yet always powerful imagery of an Attersee and the hard, formal, more ostensible Germans – it is impossible to assign Attersee to a particular group; he remains a loner within the European painting scene.
Three one-act plays directed by Horst Zankl were enacted on stage sets designed by Attersee during the Wiener Festwochen in 1987: The Seven Against Thebes (Aeschylus); Mauser (Heiner Müller); and Philotas (Gotthold Ephraim Lessing). The production was later adopted by Schauspiel Bonn. Attersee also painted landscape decorations for the swing boats at André Heller’s amusement park Luna, Luna in Hamburg.
Attersee directed painting classes at the Salzburger Sommerakademie in 1990 and 1999. In 1990 he was appointed professor at the Hochschule für angewandte Kunst in Vienna (master class for experimental design) where he directs the master class for painting, animated film, and tapestry. The year 1991 again marks Attersee’s interest in the applied arts: the artist’s designs for tapestries, hand-stitched in Anatolia, were presented in the Vienna Galerie Heike Curtze in addition to a herbal vermouth called Atterbitter – the recipe and packaging were both Attersee’s.
Attersee’s painter’s eye is apparent in further stage sets. For Eduardo Arroyo’s Bantam, performed at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf (director: Herbert König), Attersee designed five painted set-decorations titled Boxerauge (Boxer’s Eye), which were shown as an installation piece during the day. The stage sets for Mozart’s one-act plays Bastien and Bastienne and Der Schauspieldirektor (The Impresario) in 1993 (Schlosstheater Schönbrunn, director: Nikolaus Windisch-Spoerk), Johann Strauss’s Operetta Die Fledermaus in 1998 (Teatro da Trinidade, Lisbon, for the opening of the World Fair), and Igor Stravinsky’s ballet Petrushka staged in 2005 for a Diaghilev Evening at the Wiener Staatsoper (choreographer: Renato Zanella). All of the productions illustrate Attersee’s pictorial handling of spatial conditions.
In the nineteen-nineties Attersee turned increasingly towards large-format pieces. In 1993 he painted the forty-square-meter Wetterwand (Weather Wall) for the auditorium at the Technische Universität in Graz and, in 1994, a series of monumental canvas paintings for the Protestant church in Bad Füssing. In 1996 the Atterseehaus was opened in Vienna’s Mariahilferstrasse with its over one-hundred-square-meter wall mosaic designed by the artist. A 220-square-meter mosaic is currently in progress at Vienna’s Geologische Bundesanstalt and should be finished in 2006.
For Attersee, the interweaving of different media is a constant aspiration; alongside his engagement as a set designer and the poetic titling of his paintings, he has found a way to fulfill his desire for new linguistic creations – for example in Münchhausenbuch (The Münchhausen Book), 1983, the Taulocke, 1992, the most important cross-section of Attersee’s poetic work, or Die Fleischkonditorei (The Meat Confectioner’s), 1998. By using his “Atterseesprache” (Atterseelanguage) in the work titles, the artist provides the viewer with a set path leading into his world of imagery, while at the same time forcing the viewer to re-evaluate their own use of language and evoking access to the imagery by the use of linguistic images. In addition to exhibitions in Europe’s most prominent exhibition spaces, Attersee stages diverse “Attersee Productions” in the form of parties, matinees, concerts, and dances.
In 1997 the artist was awarded the Grosser Österreichischer Staatspreis für Kunst. In 2004 he received the renowned German Lovis Corinth Prize.


Compiled by Michaela Pappernigg
 

 
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Christian Ludwig  Attersee

Christian Ludwig Attersee