Johanna Kandl, Secession 1999. Photos: Matthias Herrmann,
Now that the tenth anniversary of the demise of the East and the Iron Curtain
is being duly celebrated in ceremonial addresses and symposia, we tend to forget
in the euphoria of the moment the fact that the borders between East and West
have not become any more open than before. All that has changed is that they are
now being zealously guarded by the West instead of the East so as to discourage
illegal immigration. Thus, the East remains - in spite of all political change
- a terra incognita, as western tourism only affects a few select places.
The artist Johanna Kandl is one of the rare commuters between these two worlds.
Together with her husband and colleague Helmut Kandl, she has undertaken a number
of artistic and curatorial projects, as well as research in Romania, Georgia,
Russia and the Ukraine. The photographs she took on these trips later served as
material for her paintings. Here the artist focuses her attention on incidental
and seemingly irrelevant details, which nevertheless reflect and filter events
of world magnitude.
The pictures hanging along the walls of the Main Hall feature above all street
markets. By combining these scenes with quotations from daily and weekly newspapers
Johanna Kandl evokes a tension which on the one hand makes the cheery slogans
of the financial experts seem suspect and on the other hand reveals the links
between the daily life of different economic regions and their social reality.
These pictures are accompanied by portrait-like paintings that illustrate situations
that were pleasingly unnerving for the artist. Because of their more intimate
subject matter, these pieces can be viewed in freestanding cubicles that allow
the viewer a feeling of near intimacy.
Johanna Kandl perceives in painting as an artistic craft a process of deceleration,
of intensifying memory through delay. The transmogrification of the photographs
to painting lends to a transformation of the subjects themselves: the snapshot-like
pictorial images assume a surprising gravity, not least because the artist refuses
to resort to photorealism. On the contrary, she speaks of hyperrealism in connection
with the inserted lines of text in the pictures where the pictorial finds its
necessary supplement in the form of script. In this way, Johanna Kandl succeeds
in a gently resuscitating the half-forgotten technique of genre painting. She
exploits this genre so as to approach social, political and economic themes from
her own individual perspective. This sentimental approach both expands on and
contrasts with media coverage and is the result of her personal appraisal of her
experiences - this duality often emerges in Johanna Kandl's work and offers no
patent solutions, but instead highlights problems and contrasts oversimplified
slogans with complex realities.
The ensuing tension between public and private life is also reflected by the artist's
designs for the exhibition architecture, where relatively isolated cubicles contrast
with the large space and the high wall surfaces. The artist drastically altered
the quasi-public area of the Main Hall of the Secession by dividing it up into
equally sized halves accessible only from the foyer with the aid of a wall - which
is a clear reference to the conceptual techniques of the artist, who refuses to
allow her work to be seen as mere painting, but as a game of similarities both
on a large scale and in those discriminating details so important to her.
JOHANNA KANDL was born in Vienna in 1954 and initially gained
recognition through her painting. A series of interventions, researches and cooperative
projects (e.g. with the staff of a metal-working enterprise) have sprang from
her interest in public spaces since the 1980's.
56 pages, 31 b/w illustrations, 70 illustrations
authors: Hans-Christian Dany, Matthias Herrmann, Andreas Spiegl
Selected exhibitions: Academy of the Fine Arts, Belgrade (1981); Galerie Knoll,
Vienna (1987, 1988, 1991, 1994, 1998); "Arbeitszeit", Vienna State Opera (1994);
"Der Kreis ist noch lange nicht geschlossen", Burgtor, Heldenplatz, Vienna (1995);
"Geschlossene Gesellschaft", Salzburger Kunstverein (1996); Center of Contemporary
Art, Vilnius (1997).
For further information and photographic material please contact:
Secession, Association of Visual Artists Vienna Secession
Friedrichstraße 12, 1010 Vienna
Tel: +43-1-5875307-21, Fax: +43-1-5875307-34