Siegfried Anzinger

The love/hate relationship to one’s country and the specifically Viennese pleasure in the “beautiful death” and in the macabre, present in the work of such Austrian artists as Christian Ludwig Attersee, Günter Brus, Hermann Nitsch, and Arnulf Rainer, are barely a factor in that of Siegfried Anzinger. Even the psychologizing painting of Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Egon Schiele, or Arnold Schönberg leaves hardly any traces. Anzinger circles his own identity not so much in a return to the cultural source of his background as in a debate with a broad sweep of work, from Giotto up to and including Francesco Clemente. Rather than simply quoting that work, he transforms it in accordance with his own intentions; what those intentions might be Anzinger investigates in painting cycles, frequently changing his style to produce new perspectives. Through these stylistic breaks within a certain thematic and iconographic continuity, and through the expression of various moods and aims within one cycle of work, Anzinger repeatedly risks his artistic identity (though not so radically as Walter Dahn or Jiří Georg Dokoupil).

The most recent cycle consists of 24 works, about a third of which were shown here. Painted in oil (the first time for Anzinger), they show the artist testing an agitated, thickly painted surface, and the visionary attitude to the human face of Schönberg’s painting or Kokoschka’s Pietà, 1908–09. The motif of the head, which has appeared before in Anzinger’s work, hurries through; as if under an ecstatic compulsion toward expression, it often metamorphoses into the most various forms. Goblinlike, demonized, or as a mask, it pops up in richly differentiated color space, caught by the flowing disintegration of its contour. Other heads seem to incorporate the dirty paint on the palette. The strength of these works, then, is their strong psychophysical intensity.

In his treatment of paint Anzinger experiments with the entire range from a spontaneous approach to the arduous balancing of calculation and intuition. But he always remains within the traditional concept of painting. Unlike Dokoupil, Anzinger does not attempt to burst the framework, but continues to explore the remaining ground.

Ingrid Rein

Translated from the German by Martha Humphreys.