In his painting Herbert Brandl walks the tightrope between abstraction and figuration – a thin line that has in the past few years attracted increasing attention, particularly through his mountain landscapes, marshes, and most recently his forest paintings. And just as the concrete works demand the abstract eye, so too do his abstract paintings implicate a concrete reception.
Brandl’s ultimate destination in his expeditions – often on gigantic format canvases – is decided by the painting process itself. Whether it becomes an abstract landscape of colors or a mountain, a marsh, or a flower, does not depend on a preconceived intention; the ranges of colors arise out of innominate sentiments and unfold in their physical realities. They alternate – often in abrupt transitions – between opacity and gently translucent layering; the turpentine leaves behind trickles and gullies.
Nevertheless, the materiality of the color is by no means a substitute for the content. “With Herbert Brandl there is no painting without a point of reference outside the work, without a notion of a landscape or figure and the atmospheres and feelings associated with them. (…) the observation that the painting takes place as an assault on the picture allows the following reverse formulation to be made: not committed to pictorial representation, the elements of painting are free to bring forth their contrary individualizing characteristic …” (Ulrich Loock, 1986)
Herbert Brandl finds the traditional, utterly biased subject matter – in other words the “obvious” as he puts it – in magazines and books of images, he attempts to penetrate the cliché, to transform it. In the interplay between color and figure the subjects become part of “his grammar of painting” (Martin Prinzhorn, 2004), and in the end they seem to have wandered into the picture only by chance. The transitions between the abstract and the figurative outcome are open: to Herbert Brandl it isn’t important to make decisions in one direction or the other. His painting takes place precisely at the interface of these transitions.
“If the paintings seem to get by for vast expanses without a decision, if they develop out of a keenness of observation characteristic only of aimlessness, this is not to say that they have no theme, or more accurately: no tie. It is not because Herbert Brandl’s painting strives to attain this goal, but rather, since it adjusts itself into a kind of gift, necessity, or luxury in its execution, it continuously comes close to reaching the pole signified by the word nature. This doesn’t refer so much to the concrete reminders of traditional landscape painting, although these exist too; instead, the point of contact between painting and nature occurs in such general instances as light, movement, the continuous energy, and thus also in the temporal realm.” (Julian Heynen, 1994)