J. Gasteiger – English
DEVELOPING PICTORIAL ELEMENTS
If there is a constant element in the works created by artist Jacob Gasteiger (Salzburg, 1953), that would be his permanent strategy of deconstructing the different plastic languages he uses. Focused on the materiality of painting, both the sensual quality of the surfaces and the visual perception they generate, and far form narrative or expressive intentions, his work often appears in a sculptural, photographic or even architectural format –with direct interventions on the wall- , although this does not prevent it being eminently pictorial.
Considering his whole body of work and interpreting it as a process, we can state that Gasteiger’s intention is to generatenew forms for the perception of painting, base on disorientation and a re-semantisation of pictorial elements and of other plastic languages, which are always reminiscent of painting. It is a strategy typical of the contemporary , “post-modern”, conscience, which, like all forms of knowledge, attempts to consider perspectives that have not been contemplated and to question the different levels of the legitimisation of knowledge, instead of accessing fundamental wisdom. Consequently, Gasteiger’s work mobilises the communicative resources that operate both on the formal and intellectual level of painting, to carry out a process that deconstructs meanings.
Some of the artist’s most famous works are the acrylic paintings where, with a spatula or another utensil –never with a paintbrush-, the pictorial matter is arranged regularly and methodically on the canvas, composing lines of paint (between which the base of the canvas appears less loaded with matter) traced vertically and horizontally in a regular and repetitive manner, or irregularly, following the restrained gesture of his hand. This process that envisages the controlled arrangement of the matter contrasts with the final effect produced by the pictorial surfaces, characterised by an extremely refined sensuality, albeit devoid of a subjective load. Here we find calm forms, balanced rhythms the compose independent formal structures. On the one hand, the density of the matter of these surfaces transforms the paintings, given their specific corporality, into objects with a sculptural format, although, as they are hung on the wall, we have to interpret them as paintings.
Colour is one of the key pictorial elements that Gasteiger takes as an object for research. Colour as the bearer-receiver of light and free of its expressive qualities. Most of Gasteiger’s –monochrome- paintings tend towards greyish, brownish-grey, metallic or bluish colours. He uses dull ranges to play with lights and shadows between brushstrokes, using more or less density of paint. The use that, on occasions, the artist makes of yellow or cadmium red responds more to his interest in the light effect of the canvas –as a painting-object- on the wall than to the expressive possibilities of the colour. As part of this research on colour, the serie of paintings presented in a modular fashion are very interesting in Gasteiger’s work, since the artist plays with different shades of black (oil paint, acrylic, industrial paint), grey (asphalt, lead), fluorescent paint (pure light) or, simply, a –single- shade of colour that he only uses once. This last case can be illustrated with the series created for a show in New York where the artist used a pigment that, as he happened to explain, could only be found in the shops in that city. These series of paintings, which resulted from a well-studied modular arrengement of one same format that is repeated on the wall, present a rational an formally balanced vision of the instability of colour and the relativility of its perception in terms of the different interactions with the shade next to it.
Gasteiger also refers to painting in the graphic series that uses paper stuck on the wall. These are large mural surfaces (sometimes measuring over six metres long by four or five metres high) made of sheets of paper. These sheets –treated with ink, pencil or charcoal and placed next to each other, respecting a specific margin or place one on top of the other in a serialised and regular manner –cover the whole wall or part of it. The lines formed by the joins between them or the actual quality of the adherence become graphic or material elements, like part of a giant mural painting. Likewise, the different qualities of paper –tissue paper, tracing paper, carbon paper…-, as well as the irregular use of more or less watery inks, allow the artist to play with the translucent character or the transparency of the material and create effects of shadows and blooms that are genuinely pictoral, turning the wall into a great chromatic space.
In this line of non-pictorial works, which nevertheless focus on painting, and as a result of a totally different procedure, we find configurations of aluminium that the artist presents placed directly on the floor. In Central Europe, a tradition is carried out on the last day of the year that consists in heating a spoonful of lead with a flame until it melts. Once it has melted, the lead is drooped in water and it solidifies instantly, creating a specific shape. The shapes the solidified lead takes are used to predict the future for the coming year. An association can be made with those lead figures on observing these solidified aluminium shapes, given the similarity of the process. Likewise, they automatically remind us of the dripping effect used in painting: drops of paint randomly compose shapes on the canvas. In this line of research, the artist takes his work a step further, and places these objects on pedestals, like sculptures. These solidified shapes create a new transfer of meaning, on this occasion questioning the limits between painting and sculpture. The viewer cannot avoid imagining the pictorial action (automatic, gestural, active) in sculptural forms (definitive, long-lasting), faced with this ambiguity between experience and perception.
Finally, among Gasteiger’s most recents works, and as part of this constant process that redefines meanings in painting, it is fitting to mention the photographs that presewnt fragments of those aluminium pictorial shapes. The principles of “matter and void” typical of sculpture become a pictorial element, based on the gradation of light, presented in a photographic format. The parameters change again: the three-dimensional forms of sculpture that emerge from a pictorial process are represented once again in a two-dimensional language.
Painting without a brush, sculpture photographed and presented as painting, sculptural shapes derived from a pictoral process…Alterations of materials, change of formats, transformation of volumes, of weights…In this constant process of deconstruction, movement an recreation of meanings, Jakob Gasteiger’s work manages to overcome the traditional consideration of painting and teaches us to access, as spectators, other, increasingly subtle, levels of perceptive skill.
Translation: Laura F. Farhall)