Deleting meaning, creating meaning. Despair over painting. The misery of spread colours. Stains in one's consciousness. Smearing.
An important contribution to contemporary painting consists in contradictions. These contradictions also express the courage of those who paint against painting. After all, there should be no more painting. Still, it exists. It exists in a variety of shapes. Not just as unreflected sentimentality but also as a declaration of war on any trust in pictures and the constructions which they have given rise to or which have been read into them. Herbert Brandl is one of the fighting kind. He started to win painting back and gradually lost terrain in the conquest. Philopathically exploring the land of images, like an adventurer who stands his ground and still loses himself in the vastness of ice-covered land or desert.
Today, some painters orient themselves on what is certain. After having lived through the ups and downs, and after having experienced new methods, a new world is created, and the reconstruction of painting as a system goes hand in hand with it. However, some painters continue to mistrust this. Herbert Brandl is one of them. You tend to believe that his perception got burnt. The burn is of the kind which makes an overstimulated sensory apparatus transform experiences in such a way that images emerge behind the pictures.
Shadows, some of them, afterimages the others. Painting itself, its perception and reflection, its deletion and resurrection in a different world are the subject matters of this kind of painting. It is in line with the Catholic, image-indulging, but also naive tradition of the world from which it comes from, Anton Maulpertsch and Richard Gerstl are its forefathers. One created his ecstatic images a little late and in a distant place. The other one had too little time and no friends who would have stood up for his paintings. Brandl can take that path and he does, unerringly in some strange way.
Does autonomy mean to create pictures which function in themselves and have a reality of their own? Is that not self-defence when one is faced with picture overkill in our day and age? This act of concentration coming with simultaneous deletion has nothing to do with the humbleness of reduction. This is not about purification. There is no search for the sublime. It is the afterpain, what you feel when you hit the same wound again and again. The Catholic heritage is not too far away. Cognition needs to be suffered. Meditation happens in confusion. Did not Wittgenstein torture himself, too? Pertinent practice qua flagellation. Such practice has same sort of casual quality, it is almost easy.
This must necessarily be the result of the pain after one's own reason and body have been put up for disposal so radically. Ecstasy in a mundane world in which there is no more redemption. This is the flip side of the coin in all attempts to produce pictures for this world. The black Romanticism of painting. Recently, I wrote about the meaning of light in an incidental text on Herbert Brandl's paintings. Meanwhile, I have come to believe ever more strongly that the most recent pictures which we see here correspond roughly to what we perceive when we stare into the most glaring spotlights. The greatest variety af sensations emerges between retina and head, down to complete blindness. It is clearly a kind of painting that is born in the brain, that is built by ourselves. And it speaks of the extreme phenomena of a world that can be experienced with all senses.
It looks at the thin membrane separating us from the world. It can only be perceived in a state of overheating. Gerstl's Selfportrait, Brus's Zerreissprobe. Is that still part of our world? Nothing has changed: we have the picture in front of us as an object.
Casual smears which have the capability of creating something in our mind that preoccupies us. Two movements, two processes, not necessarily evolving reciprocally here. After our presumptions as to how the paintings come about we should not actually use any of our purported knowledge for reading them.
Maybe we should try to enter these smeared fields without preconceptions. Maybe there is such a thing as reading in itself, far beyond meaning. How does music work? White noise, with small deviations.
Aus: Herbert Brandl, Sezession Wien/Kunsthalle Basel, Wien, Katalog zur Ausstellung, 1999.Peter Pakesch ist Generaldirektor des Museums Joanneum und des Kunsthauses Graz