Maria Lassnig

Galerie Busche

Throughout her long career as a painter Maria Lassnig has focused her work resolutely and relentlessly on her own body. Since the late ’40s she has questioned how she can experience her body as a part of her perception, her thinking, her inventiveness, and her pain; it is not merely the object of her work, it is part of her self. Lassnig sinks, so to speak, into her body, using paint to communicate the results of what she finds. Her methods of painting have changed over the decades: sometimes she paints more abstractly, sometimes almost realistically—and then abstractly again. But Lassnig has always remained true to her project. The works in this show, from various phases, move between abstract and realistic work, and offer a broad overview of her range.

In Spannungsfiguration (Tension figuration, 1961), the oldest work here, Lassnig travels through a constant give-and-take between the spiritual-sensual world and the material world, which make up our bodily existence. Using her hand, her brush, her pigments, she transfers this almost unfathomable interweaving from her mind to the canvas. This work is part of the series of “Strichbilder” (Stroke paintings, 1951–61), which the artist painted during sojourns in Paris. These are strokes that convey the body’s sense of stretching and tension. They are almost abstract, but often bring forth individual body parts on the pictorial surface.

After Paris, Lassnig moved to New York, where her painting became more figurative again. She did a large number of self-portraits, which presented her in relation to various objects or animals. This exhibition included her self-portrait as a dog, from the ’80s, which she painted after she had returned to Vienna. Self-portraits are yet another route that Lassnig takes to express a specific physical condition or sensation. In a time when the entire world seems to be shifting, one’s own body is suddenly the only solid anchor, explaining Lassnig’s intense, almost pathological focus.

Noemi Smolik

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschet.