Herbert Brandl (*1959 in Graz) began studying under Herbert Tasquil and Peter Weibel at the Hochschule für angewandte Kunst in Vienna in 1978. From 1985 to 1991 he was a guest professor at the Akademie der bildenden Künste in Vienna, before being called to the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 2004. In the 1980s he was considered one of the "Neue Wilde," or "wild youth." Brandl has enjoyed international success, for example at the 1992 documenta IX in Kassel and at the 2007 Venice Biennial. He lives and works in Vienna.
Between Abstract and Figurative
"I always wanted to avoid the typical landscape, but—boom—before you know it, that horizon is back. Then I'd get annoyed and try to override it." (Herbert Brandl)
Herbert Brandl is regarded as an important innovator in painting. He is always exploring the possibilities of color and light. Each and every brushstroke is a gesture that turns the process of painting itself into a theme. Even when he seems to be producing something figurative, he dissolves the familiar world into clouds and flecks of color. What fascinates Brandl is the image, not the reality. Regardless of whether it’s a mountain or a forest, everything is ultimately turned into paint on canvas, and its reception is a question of individual interpretation and the willingness to revise habitual patterns of perception.
Brandl became known in the 1980s for his rather small oil paintings. Even early on, the landscape—in varying degrees of abstraction—played an important role in his work, although he also produced a few still lifes and female nudes. A thick impasto is characteristic of his early works; some of the dynamic reliefs are composed of actual paint crusts. In the eighties Brandl was considered a leading figure among the Austrian “Neue Wilde,” who created a furor in Vienna and Bern in 1986 with their exhibition Hacken im Eis (Hacking ice).
In the early 1990s Brandl cut back on the amount of paint he applied. The surfaces of his paintings became flatter, while at the same time increasing in size. To his emotional painting style he added an analytical component, bringing more meaning to the creative process, while the brushstrokes still remained recognizable. At that time, the palette of the formless, non-figurative “Silver Pictures” was obviously reduced, and remained so until the mid-nineties, when he began producing the multicolored pictures, which had an almost glazed appearance.
Around the turn of the century, mountain landscapes became Brandl’s most important motif. He molded sculptural-looking masses of rock and snow out of thick, close, fulminant brushstrokes, which are clearly visible in close-up. His formats attained the dimensions of entire walls, and he decided to always finish his canvases in one sitting. The open, watery painting style includes deliberately placed streaks of color and obvious brush texture, expressing an intense act of painting. Due to his work methods, the palette must be limited; the picture is often constructed out of a dominant color on top of a white ground. The motif itself sometimes becomes non-representational, while at other times, it is figurative. The artist does not used photographs as sources, but as sign posts and directional guides, as it were, for his impulsive, improvised creations. From the distant memory of omnipresent photographic images, Brandl creates classic oil paintings full of excitement and inventive power.
October 5, 2011 Monika Wolz