Richard Kaplenig, 53, is one of the elite artists in Austria who have succeeded in living of their Art. The artist comes from the region of Carinthia and spent many years abroad, ‘but never too long in the same place,’ he says. His eight years in Venice were decisive for his career, five spent studying at the Accademia di Belle Arti; he also lived for one year in Buenos Aires. Countless symposia followed, most taking place abroad in different countries such as Poland, Russia, Slovenia, and Croatia. I discovered more about the workspace the artist works in during a visit to his Atelier in Nussdorf, Vienna, and was surprised by what I found there. His large, beautiful atelier is divided across two floors and yet can be observed fairly quickly: his large-format works dominate the space.
Richard Kaplenig has a sense for a simple extravagance which is reflected even in his most recent works.
Mr Kaplenig, when one crosses the threshold into your sanctuary in Nussdorf and takes a look around, they’re immediately surprised. You don’t only live for but also with art. How important is it for your work to be at the centre of your works of art?
My workspaces are very important to me as I spend a lot of time there. To paint on large-formats I need space and light. There’s barely any furniture to speak of, only the essential. I create an exhibition area in a part of this space to observe the completed pictures in peace before they leave the atelier. Here in Nussdorf I have found the ideal conditions for this across more than 300 square metres. A certain basic order is just as important to me in the atelier. I believe this is reflected in my current pictures.
When looking at your work, it reminds viewers of purism. Your actual, large-format works radiate pure aesthetics united with clarity and precision, but also a simplicity when it comes to colours. You seem to focus on whites and blacks paired with shades of grey. Don’t you like colour?
I was never a ‘colourful painter’. It’s most likely I can’t even paint colourfully. When using colours, I do so using just a smidgen. In the past I favoured red. In the newer paintings I’ll often opt for indigo, a very dark, nearly black shade and, yes, white. I’ve been following a precise aesthetic pattern for years: too much colour just won’t do. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like colours in general. I love experiencing colour in nature, for example.
Your objects in your most recent catalogue are everyday items: lightbulbs, nails, bottles, etc. How did this love for these functional glass and aluminium objects arise? When did you first start painting them?
After years of abstraction I rethought and shaped my work anew in 2009. The starting point was a residence in Buenos Aires which was brought about by the Kapsch company. The Argentinian stay lasted many months and changed many of my up to then current perspectives regarding expressive art. I perceived my work as boring. I started painting whatever flitted through my head, without any precise concept in mind. Those random thoughts included everyday objects, the creative spark for my current paintings. Painting itself took centre stage. You could go as far as saying that the objects were just an excuse for painting. Of course, the associations engendered by the objects are also important, but they’re not the be all and end all. It’s more about making a connection after I declare a ‘thingamajig’ worthy of being painted. Just like love at first sight.
Artists need collectors, patrons, and the art market to reach international fame. What is your stance in regards to the art market as an internationally recognised artist?
I was always fortunate enough that people always noticed my talent and actively encouraged it. I’ve got to thank many entrepreneurs in the private sector for that. The art market, even if it’s not always easy to understand, is very important for artists, of course. Without galleries you won’t have a chance to stand out on the market. Participating in art exhibitions and being present at auctions are also playing an increasingly more important role.
You live for but also off art. Is it actually hard to live off art in Austria?
Without the previously mentioned patrons and sponsors, and the good collaboration with the Lukas Feichtner Gallery or the different curators and art theoreticians it would not be possible.
Where do you prefer to work? In Faak or Vienna?
It depends on the individual series I work on in any given moment. The currently more technically inclined paintings come out better in Vienna. At the moment, I only go to Faak am See when I need a bit of respite from the hot summers. Richard Kaplenig’s induvial exhibitions and appearances would fill a page. However, some important individual exhibitions for the artist were:
- 2015 ‘ansichts.SACHE’, Galerie Lukas Feichtner, Vienna
- 2013 ‘dingfest’, Projekt Serendipity, Künstlerhaus Wien+
- 2011 ‘Reconversión’, Centro Cultural Recoleta, Buenos Aires