Robert Fleck
A central Position in Painting

The pictorial space is very large. It seems even larger than the already oversized painting, which covers most of the wall; it seems to be infinite in the expansion along a plane that characterizes this painting. At first glance, we perceive an intense glow, pure color, usually in a single shade, with which another, related shade is sometimes coordinated in agentic dialogue, but the one, intense note of color always remains dominant. On second glance, the painting turns out to be extremely dynamic. The structure of the painting, the visible brushstrokes, and the traces of dripping painting clearly do not follow a predetermined plan. In their details, they seem anarchic, even if a large, dominant move in one direction (top/bottom, left/right, etc.) structures the painting and lends it support. By the third glance, the eye has grown somewhat accustomed to the unusual visual experience, which shares almost nothing with the visibilities of everyday life. Now the reality that the painting spreads out before our eyes can already been somewhat differentiated. The painting is ultimately completely based on the antithesis, indeed violent conflict, between light and color. In Herbert BrandI, that struggle is in part between the white of the canvas and the bright colors and in part between the white and colored paints on the same canvas, as in his grass and algae paintings since 2005.
In Brandl's paintings of the first decade of the twenty-first century, this conflict multiplies the intensity of both opponents-color and of light-and lends them a fresh energy, which gets by without artificial applications of paint or spectacular contrasts. As soon as the eye has adjusted to these intense planes of color and light, it becomes equally evident that their formal language walks a thin tight rope on which abstract, spontaneously drawn lines and connections between planes sometimes appear to be the subject matter of the painting, before a thoroughly figurative approach, characterized by great simplicity, becomes evident at the very next moment, only to dissolve again into the experience of the nonobjective image.
The eye thinks it perceives something like a surface with grass growing on it, or algae moving underwater, or something like a partially cloud-covered mountain, like a sunrise or sunset, but the abstract pictorial values nevertheless immediately regain the upper hand. All of this is achieved without effects and with a naturalness that accounts for the high quality of Brandl's oeuvre, especially in the current decade. 80th these things are related to the fact that they are, from a technical perspective, classical oil paintings that dispense with the artificial effects of acrylic and other synthetic paints, while a rapid painting process that merely recalls previously seen photographic images ensures the dynamics and decisiveness necessary for the pictorial structure.
Herbert Brandl's current painting is an important contribution to a central question of the art of this period: namely, to the possibilities of breaking free from the previous century and its aesthetic standards. Even early in his career, Herbert Brandl was strikingly independent of the currents of the zeitgeist and hence with the associated major formal paths. The early paintings are usually thick volumes of paint in which, as far as the motif is concerned, countless layers of paint-in a formal idiom that is sometimes abstract, sometimes figurative-overlap and cancel each other out, while the various colors shine through in places and even break through here and there. The result is an unusual pictorial construct that is quite innovative in terms of chromaticism.
Back then Herbert Brandl would paint over any remnants of figuration with a final layer-very much with the pragmatic intention of refusing to provide occasion for any discussion of formal innovations. Those paintings earned him an important place among young contemporary artists in the 1980s, thanks to the freshness and the aesthetic independence of his painting, which participated in the renaissance of that medium after the period from 1965 to 1980, when an aesthetic marked by minimalism and conceptual art exerted hegemony. Herbert Brandl's painting of the 1980s was received, on the one hand, as a very original contribution to the rediscovery of bright colors in painting and their experimental use, something he shared in that period with the most important painters of both the older generation and his own. On the other hand, however, despite his prominent position in contemporary painting-including participation in the Nouvelle Biennale de Paris in 1985 and in the exhibition Hacken im Eis (Hacking in the ice), curated by Ulrich Loock, in 1986-Herbert Brandl maintained a striking and almost exemplary distance from the dominant artistic debate of these years:
namely, the discussion of postmodernism or, to put it another way, the question of how to approach the formal vocabulary of modernism as the defining art form of the twentieth century.
In retrospect, this debate over how to approach the formal vocabulary of modernism represented the great, enduring paradigm not only in the 1980s but also well into the 1990s, with the renaissance of conceptual art and the interest in antiformalist strands in the modern art of the twentieth century. The offshoots of this question of how to deal with the vocabulary of modernism continue to have an influence into the new millennium. Herbert Brandl's work in the first half of the 1980s seems to have been all but unaffected by it.
The amorphous states of his paintings from that period adeptly avoided the iconography of abstraction and monochromatism and also undermined any figurative connotations.