My painting is a hybrid, fluctuating between abstract and natural shapes.
Herbert Brandl’s abstract works unpack the multifarious levels of colours and shapes that are characteristic of the artist’s oeuvre. They engage in this formal exploration of abstraction, translating it into a spacious dimension structured by striking fields of vibrant colours and a distinctive gestural style.
On the occasion of Herbert Brandl´s museum exhibition at the Belvedere 21, Vienna Exposed to Painting. The Past Twenty Years, the following 15 minutes film was realized. It gives a personal insight into his understanding of art and art history and tells about experiences that have significantly influenced his work.
Over a long time, roses, mountains or wild rivers have been the subject matters Herbert Brandl has focused on. He uses as inspiration found photographic images or snap shots, he has taken himself. The paintings cover a wide range from the figurative to the totally abstract and all the nuances in-between these two spheres. Framed in excerpt-like details and rendered detached from their contexts, they gain a certain urgency and monumental presence.
The ample gesture, precisely pitched light and sensuous colour mood create a subjective perception of dynamic and endlessly flowing water. While Herbert Brandl deconstructs the wild river motif through his choice of shaping and image spaces, he simultaneously constructs ideals of nature unspoilt and intact.
The motif of the rose is an unexpected trope in the current contemporary art discourse. Firmly inscribed in art history, from Dutch still lifes through to Salvador Dali and Cy Twombly, this particular motif is charged with meanings and attributions. Brandl boldly places the rose at the focal point of his artistic exploration, whether atmospherically condensed in its concrete figuration or abstracted in its representation. Through meticulously selected details, vibrant colours and image-filling representations the works are characterised by a stunning presence and fascinating monumentality.
I paint out of the movement, the stroke, out of the brush size and the color.
I didn't have to see the mountain to paint it, I didn't have to be there to feel the air or see the light.
The mountain is arguably the most significant motif in Herbert Brandl’s oeuvre, often structured as dramatic image compositions, these works feature unidentified mountain formations alongside major massifs such as Mount Everest, Annapurna and Mount Kenya, depicted as majestically sublime but also utterly deserted. For Herbert Brandl, this is ‘… my dream: the deserted mountain, the mountain no-one is climbing. The empty landscape, intact and untouched, where no-one goes, where no-one wants to be. This idea of solitude, the idea that the mountain is alone, by itself, appeals to me.’
I like to move between abstraction and realism. That is the area of tension in which I work.
In an astonishing way Herbert Brandl transfers his observations of nature and animals from the canvas to a sculptural level. Prior to this step, a craftsman process is the starting point; the intended form is roughly shaped by using expanded polystyrene and wire. Onto this the artist adds clay and with his fingers he forms the final shape of the sculpture. The finished bronze sculpture clearly shows the physical and artisan marks: the fingerprints of the artist can be seen in harmony with the gestural and painterly characteristic of the sculpture.
Unique shapes are formed into animal creatures like foxes, lemurs or gorillas. Brandl challenges our viewing habits by detaching these animal figures from their environment and depicting them either in profile, face on, or as plinth-mounted busts, rather in the manner of representational human portraits. The sculptures made of bronze have different surface finishes such as patination or polishing, giving each a unique character.
The same is true with the mountain crystals, the various surface qualities have a disparate imprint with a stunning impact. Pictorially, these are often defamiliarized by Herbert and given an object-like, architectural context. By contrast, as bronze sculptures they appear to be multi-layered objects, seemingly rampant as they proliferate into the surrounding space and act on the viewer by their grandeur.