Jürgen TaborVienna Downbeat – On the concepts and contexts of the exhibition Untitled (Flow)
Sabine SchaschlPartially Gone with the Wind
Fiona LiewehrTransitive Network Spaces
Cliff LausonSlow Flow
Matthia LöbkeWith a Black Ink – In the Studio of Herbert Hinteregger
Walter SeidlAesthetics of Reduction
Martin PrinzhornAdditive Abstraction
Fiona LiewehrHerbert Hinteregger & Michael Sailstorfer
at Georg Kargl BOX, Georg Kargl Fine Arts, Vienna
Jürgen Tabor“To destroy an object to create a painting”
Günther MoschigHerbert Hinteregger – Color as Presence in Space
Fiona LiewehrKoenraad Dedobbeleer/Herbert Hinteregger
A sense of disquietude concerning the existing order of things
Elisabeth FiedlerA Transmedia Reduction of Means
Works by Herbert Hinteregger
Axel Jablonski(in the world of things)
Moritz Küng“It was through a documentation which Herbert Hinteregger sent me…”
A Transmedia Reduction of Means
Works by Herbert Hinteregger
On the one hand, the exhibition title "all over" indicates reference points Herbert Hinteregger found in art history, on the other hand, it covers (up) a wide range of works waiting to be discovered in all their formal stringency.
In Impressionism, the issue of how things are perceived, i.e. the analytical questioning of the representation and perception of the object painted, becomes evident. At the same time, the object is analysed, and an interest in its movement, its dissolution and penetration by light, emerges.
As the gamut of colours broadens, and colour and light become equivalent as the simultaneous contrast of colours can be experienced - a phenomenon discovered by M E. Chevreul in 1839 – we find that the depiction of light and its reflection are thematised.
At the end of the nineteenth century, the insight that it was impossible to depict nature resulted in the intention to remove all content, which subsequently lead to the self-confident approach of considering colour as pictorial content in its own right and to the concurrent proclamation of the end of all painting (Malevich's "Black Square", 1915; Rodchenko's "Last Paintings", 1921). In his book "The Last Painting. From the Easel to the Machine" (Moscow 1923) the critic Nikolai Tarabukin summarised the machine aesthetics of productivist Constructivism. This is where the tensions between Malevich's spiritual and visionary notion of art and the productive-technical aesthetics of the Moscow Constructivists, such as Tatlin, El Lissitzky or Rodchenko, came to the fore.
The tension between conceptual and spiritual structures of thinking again emerged in US art in the 1940ies under the sway of colorfield painting. Barnett Newman developed a notion of art based on an idea, a single concept of a picture, the concept of a thinking artist as opposed to the physically active artist who is perpetually involved in a process of devising ideas about color
(Lucy R. Lippard: Ad Reinhardt, N.Y. 1981).
Ad Reinhardt was attracted by the notion of contemplation, but his attitude was mainly a result of his political views. After all, it was part of the Marxist approach to attach primary importance to the material and consider the idea of the material as secondary or derived. His rejection of representational art is reflected in his monochromatic surfaces in which he eliminated all narrative elements down to the identification of the brushstroke. Knowing that the monochrome was tantamount to limitation, reduction and concentration, he was aware of the fact that every last painting brought on another one. This is where the de-materialisation of the picture and the renunciation of reference to objects, to the point of transcendence, have their roots. For this purpose Reinhardt used mat light-absorbing paints.
Analysis of perception, exploration of colour and light, tension between conceptual approach and emotional depth, awareness of the end of painting as proclaimed over and over again, these are points of departure when it comes to understanding Herbert Hinteregger's works.
His monochromatic paintings, which do not intend to depict light and its reflection but seek to capture it, are deliberately framed by a white margin on the canvas, not just to underscore the fact that they are paintings – he also places irregular brushstrokes and provokes shading. He does not aim at transcendental content but at an expansion of painting by way of greater intensity and a space-occupying effect.
One of his sources of inspiration is a moorland lake in the Tyrol, Lake Schwarzsee, which has impressed him since he was a child and which was also one of Alfons Walde's favourite motifs, and he seems to try and cut a piece of it out. Its unfathomable depth and reflecting surface mirroring the outer world are the two polarities which encompass perviousness, transparency on the one hand, and opacity, interactivity in a closed state on the other.
The way in which Hinteregger combines liquids, nature, landscape, three-dimensionality and painting evokes an immersion into natural phenomena found in Romanticism and the abstract elimination of the narrative, from William Turner to Gerhard Richter. Another important element is his interest in Luis Barragán and his architecture, which brought together landscape, water, vegetation and the regional vocabulary of forms from the immediate surroundings. Barragán's reduction of form resulting from the influence of Le Corbusier and International Style as well as of Mies van der Rohe, linked with the penetration of nature and the constructive use of materials also have a bearing on Hinteregger's thinking.
Another source of inspiration is monochromatic painting, an engagement with the art of Ad Reinhardt and Yves Klein, their purism and attitude to the body. While Reinhardt deliberately referred to Vitruvius in creating a picture as high as a human is tall and as wide as man's outstretched arms, with man being the measure of all things, Klein used bodies as a medium of painting, while Hinteregger explores the boundaries of form and transgresses them by an intermedia mix of painting, sculpture and installation. Contrary to Reinhardt, he does not aim at the absorption of light but at the reflections of colour in various states of density resulting from the movement of the beholder.
This and the issue of the ideal position of the beholder leads to the theme of perspective, which Leonardo called the daughter of painting and its proof. I am following Peter Weibel's essay "Das gequälte Quadrat" ("The Tortured Square", in: Peter Weibel, Gamma und Amplitude, Berlin 2004, p. 255) here, in which he says that perspective, as the principle of "construzzione legittima", introduces the principle of construction into art while at the same time giving rise to the problems of proportion, movement and infinity.
As Weibel says, this concurs with the emergence of the problem of movement, the theory of proportion, infinity and creative technique. The four concepts can be linked with Constructivism, and a new quandary arises as the illusion of perspective is encoded as a matter of realistic objectivity in the natural sciences. After all, the vanishing point is not only located on an imaginary horizon, it is somewhere in infinite space. In Cézanne and Delacroix, perspective disappears again, and Ernst Mach calls the absoluteness of the self into question at the same time. It vanishes while the problem of movement comes to the fore and the focus shifts to photography as the seemingly appropriate medium to solve it.
Movement released in the picture leads to moving pictures and the movable gaze, multiple perspective, various forms of interactivity required for the work of art to be constructed at all. Beholder and picture become virtual parts of a dynamic system.
The second problem concealed by perspective, infinity, also unfolded in painting and mathematics (in set theory) when perspective disappeared. And Weibel points to Malevich who assumed that infinite systems existed, and to his manifesto "The Suprematist Mirror" of 1923, in which he said that infinite systems such as science and art "had no boundaries". In linear-perspectival pictures infinity is already there because the vanishing point to which the perspectival lines relate is infinitely far; the reference points "vanish" in infinity. Thus, the vanishing point made perspective itself disappear, and an aesthetic of absence and transparency ensued.
This aesthetic can be identified in Hinteregger's monochromatic paintings as well as in "ubecool", a "liquid painting", water mixed with ballpoint-pen ink in a swimming-pool the transparent surface of which is rippled and made opaque by means of fans, and in his installations, in which he glued innumerable empty ballpoint pen shells onto walls, ceiling and floor.
The exclusive use of ballpoint pens, including ink and shells, as a material in Hinteregger's works stands for reduction to and concentration on minimal basic materials. The "Bic" ballpoint pen as a ready-made, a cheap recyclable disposable mass product, is reminiscent of Duchamp, and it is striking how Hinteregger makes the object vanish in his pictures. Only its essence, the fast-drying ink first extracted from individual cartridges, then purchased in larger quantities from industrial suppliers, is applied on the canvas with a brush and condensed; it needs a beholder whose movement make the iridescence, the depths, the absence of perspective in infinity and the dimension of time emerge. This means that Hinteregger thematises the polarity of industrial production, the machine-made, and the craftman's precision, as well as the problem of perspective losing its magic, and thus the growing dynamic in the dimension of space and time.
When he uses industrial sponges that can be bought at filling stations to apply paint on canvas, he may be alluding to Adolph Gottlieb or Yves Klein, who worked with natural sponges, but his aesthetic is one of strict arrangement in spite of the random distribution of pores; the structure is reminiscent of the sky, the infinity of the universe, yet based on an underlying conceptual plan. At the same time, the sponge functions as a memory providing information when pressed. In the process, grids emerge, information that is interconnected and thus reflects an affinity to computerised data carriers, the perviousness of Windows. This is not about the beauty of the surface but an exploration of painting and the media at the intersection of science and art. Hinteregger's conceptual approach is specially clear in his "drawings", often based on illustrations in Tyrolean local studies books superimposed with ordered, focusing, encoding lines and geometries. The basis for the grids are zoomed abstract representations of landscapes such as town maps, GPS drawings, a bird-eye's view of the concentration camp at Dachau, as well as radial lines reminiscent of schools of fish.
Subsequently, the bars and lines may be transferred onto a wall in the exhibition space, whereby the campaigning field is expanded, space is appropriated as a medium for Hinteregger's works, or the change in the space becomes a work in its own right. The walls used in his installations are more than mere supports of his works, Hinteregger intervenes, creates figures, thus re-positioning the space.
The occupation of space while eliminating points of reference and centres, the creation of infinity and absence of perspective are what the work "all over" thematises.
While his paintings on canvas as a classic support have what is clearly a framing margin, more than 20,000 "Bic" ballpoint-pen shells are glued to walls, ceiling and floor next to each other or on top of each other in an unstructured way in "all over".
Amongst other things, Hinteregger's ironic look back in art history – to Jackson Pollock in this case – refers to the problem of separating drawing and painting, line and colour, the supporters of Poussin versus the supporters of Rubens, controversies between Ingrès and Delacroix throughout the nineteenth century, as defined in Heinrich Wölfflin's "Kunstgeschichtliche Grundbegriffe" ("Elementary Concepts of Art History") of 1915. The relation between painting and drawing is one of the fundamental issues the New York painters of the 1940ies sought to resolve. Ashile Gorky and Willem de Kooning separated line and colour, using colour independently for spots and shades; William Baziotes and Adolph Gottlieb did not give linear contours to shapes, they painted plane forms with identifiable outlines similar to drawings.
Jackson Pollock finally managed to merge the linear and the painterly by drawing with paint in automatic technique, covering areas evenly in industrial paint from the can without starting from a centre in his gestural paintings. Hinteregger looks back on Blinky Palermo, his rejection of anonymous perfection, of the absence of an obligatory centre, and of the reliance on chance in his works while reducing means to the minimum, as he quotes the "all over" for the first time as a retro concept after his experience with New Painting in the 1980ies and with the "Neo Geo" group as well as with increasing mediatisation; under the aspect of remixing he carries the concept into the entire space the glass walls of which afford passers-by a view of the museum space.
Again, the picture only emerges through the movement of the beholder who perceives a space-occupying thicket of ballpoint-pen shells reminiscent of swarming insects. Without perspective and infinite, the picture turns into an installation in which we make the physical experience of a development from handwriting to the "all over" of the data onslaught, of digitalised communication all around us, all the time. The actual information has vanished, the media of writing are empty, content becomes illegible code integrating coincidence like a game of jackstraw. To decipher the code, we no longer need to answer the question as to whether this is a drawing, a painting in three dimensions, sculpture or installation, we need to look at the infinite number of possibilities of reading the translucent and pervious information carriers.
In all his works, Hinteregger moves around the intersections of media. In doing so, he takes the beholder into unfathomable, emptied yet energetically charged depths while at the same time transgressing boundaries of space and media by suggesting the immaterial and presenting the virtual with characteristics which cannot be identified by themselves but only become visible in interaction, in a dynamic relation between work and beholder.