Herbert Brandl’s paintings oscillate between abstraction and figuration, walking a thin line and balancing on the razor’s edge on the golden path to painting. He not only paints pictures of mountains, wetlands, forests, and meadows, but also airy, abstract compositions with luminous colors. When Herbert Brandl brings nature’s atmospheric qualities into his pictures, painting and nature touch in moments of light, movement, perpetuating energy, and time. Even in his most abstract compositions we imagine the sun breaking through the clouds, streams flowing, or leaves and meadows showing off their green.
The pictures are located at that point where the idea of a natural object and the emotionality of color fields become one. He works with the physical conditions of color, and he paints “unintentional,” fresh pictures. His painting method is brisk, intuitive, and devoid of purposeful notions. He “concentrates like a Zen painter” (Herbert Brandl).
Herbert Brandl often models his paintings on photographs, which he purges of conventional views, clichés, and touristy perversions by taking them to extremes. “These are mountain pictures without titles. I’m not interested in names of mountains, but in what is essential about their form” (Herbert Brandl). Not only mountains, but all of nature must be reclaimed for painting and capturing the overwhelming and the sublime as memories and afterimages of nature’s atmospheric qualities.
The new series of pictures revolve around the Schwarze Sulm (Black Sulm), a river in Austria. It is a call to arms against a particular case of the abuse of nature: The planned economic exploitation, hence destruction, of one of the last free-flowing rivers in Austria. The Schwarze Sulm and parts of its drainage area is protected by the EU as a natural reserve in the Western part of the state of Styria. Just before reaching the town of Schwanberg, it passes through a gorge – an area untouched by forestry and a habitat to rare and endangered flora and fauna. Only 4% of Austria’s rivers share the pristine water quality of the Schwarze Sulm.
However, a private investor has decided to turn the river into cash by selling its drinking water and generating electricity with a hydroelectric power plant. This means draining the Schwarze Sulm for several kilometers, despite a low electricity output. The license for this absurd intervention in this EUprotected area could only be acquired by downgrading the water quality in agreement with the local government, thus sidestepping guidelines. Bulldozers are gathering, and environmental organizations are taking up their positions. Conquer the Bulldozer Empire! Herbert Brandl and his hyenas are ready for action. He has a house near Schwanberg, and the pristine waters of the Schwarze Sulm were not only dear to him as a child; they are still a source of artistic perception of nature. On the golden path to painting, his close-up view of the water’s pristine beauty (you cannot get an overview in a gorge) can be also read as a personally motivated struggle against the destruction of nature. In the meantime, the Austrian Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has filed an appeal with the Supreme Administrative Court objecting to the building of the power station.