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Maria Lassnig – Dialogues


She has her feet plan­ted solid­ly in the out­side world while still retai­ning an intro­spec­ti­ve awa­reness of her body. Her por­traits are based on a tho­rough stu­dy of rea­li­ty. Howe­ver, the obser­va­ti­on of ani­mals and peop­le go well bey­ond copy­ing the merely visi­ble, inclu­de the core of the individual’s traits and expe­ri­ence the uni­que ele­ments by high­ligh­t­ing oppo­si­tes.

This inti­ma­te con­ver­sa­ti­on with the inner and outer world, with fee­lings and rea­li­ty, is some­thing Lass­nig deve­lo­ps on paper in an espe­cial­ly illus­tra­ti­ve man­ner. This inti­ma­te medi­um turns direct­ly into the expe­ri­men­ting ground of spon­ta­ne­ous­ly pla­ced lines and chro­ma­tic fiel­ds, crea­ting new per­spec­ti­ves and the­mes. Des­pi­te all the inti­ma­cy affor­ded by drawing on paper, monu­men­tal, pain­ting like com­po­si­ti­ons appe­ar on it. The idea of sket­ches and the first draft were taken up and dis­car­ded by Lass­nig ages ago, tur­ned into an auto­no­mous artis­tic expres­si­on on paper. Even in the pain­tings the inten­si­ty of the drawing, the vibra­to of indi­vi­du­al lines as well as the radi­an­ce of the water­co­lour feels visi­ble and tan­gi­ble. Maria Lass­nig, tog­e­ther with Loui­se Bour­geois, Joan Mit­chell and Agnes Mar­tin is one of the most important artists of the 20th cen­tu­ry. She made her body the focus of her art at an ear­ly sta­ge, even befo­re body con­scious­ness and the rela­ti­on bet­ween man and woman beca­me key the­mes of the inter­na­tio­nal avant­gar­de move­ment.

Lass­nig was born in 1919 in Carin­thia, trai­ned in Aus­tri­an artis­tic tra­di­ti­ons at the Vien­na Aca­de­my, but it’s on a trip to Paris at the start of the 1950s that she recei­ves some important inspi­ra­ti­on. She finds rea­sons to inten­si­fy the imple­men­ta­ti­on of visi­ble and tan­gi­ble con­scious emo­ti­ons with the help of abs­tract, for­mal and phy­si­cal lan­guages. From here, she soon deve­lo­ps her own pic­to­ri­al lan­guage and focu­ses her atten­ti­on on the imple­men­ta­ti­on of body con­scious­ness in the visu­al pic­to­ri­al tex­tu­re; howe­ver, at the same time, she keeps con­nec­ted to visi­ble rea­li­ty. ‘You paint how you are,’ says the pain­ter and con­firms the ten­si­on and con­trasts in her, indis­pensable ele­ments that allow her to be in touch with the inner and outer world. Self-por­traits are the main sub­ject of the artist, giving them a who­le new aspect to this tra­di­tio­nal form roo­ted in histo­ry of art. The choice of colours on its own plays a key role due to the inter­pre­ta­ti­on of its oppor­tu­nities: cold and blue hues are oppo­sed to pale yel­low. Dif­fe­rent shades of red jump to the fore in a vibrant call for the spot­light.

Lass­nig as an artist picks up sug­ges­ti­ons from her tea­chers and aspects of new styles swift­ly, asses­ses them and then deve­lo­ps them. The first Kör­per­ge­fühls­zeich­nun­gen were pro­du­ced at the end of the 40s, cal­ling them ‘intro­spec­ti­ve expe­ri­en­ces’ at the time. By doing so she pla­ced her own fema­le body at the heart of her crea­ti­ve pro­cess befo­re all other com­pa­ra­ble posi­ti­ons in Euro­pe and Ame­ri­ca. Tog­e­ther with aut­hor Oswald Wie­ner she went on stu­dy trips across Ita­ly and Greece as well as alo­ne to Rome, Oslo, and Stock­holm. At the end of the 50s her ‘Kör­per­ge­fühls­aqua­rel­le, »-gou­achen« und tachis­ti­sche Gemäl­de‘ (intro­spec­ti­ve gou­aches and water­co­lours as well as Tachisme pain­tings) come to life. She moves to Paris in 1960 to divest herself of her sty­listic ‘com­pul­si­ons’. The lar­ge Kör­per­ge­fühls­fi­gu­ra­tio­nen (Strich­bil­der) are the result of this peri­od, and will turn to be decisi­ve for her fol­lowing years. She’s friends with Paul Celan and his wife, French dra­wer and gra­phic artist Gisè­le Celan Lestran­ge, with Jean-Paul Rio­pel­le and Joan Mit­chell, from Ame­ri­ca, a repre­sen­ta­ti­ve of abs­tract expres­sio­nism.

In 1964 her mother, who she was very clo­se to, pas­ses away. Her death leads to an exis­ten­ti­al cri­sis which finds expres­si­on in the Bewei­nungs­bil­dern. In 1968 Lass­nig moves for a deca­de to New York. As a reac­tion to the lack of under­stan­ding which is met by her art the­re, she deve­lo­ped a style akin to Ame­ri­can rea­lism: the expres­si­on Kör­per­ge­fühl beco­mes ‘Body Awa­reness’. After taking part in an ani­ma­ti­on cour­se at the School of Visu­al Arts in New York, she deve­lo­ps drawings of count­less ani­ma­ted films based on her idea of ‘Body Awa­reness’ which make her incredi­b­ly suc­cess­ful. Lass­nig is cofoun­der of Woman men/Artist/Filmmakers, Inc. in New York, an asso­cia­ti­on of femi­nist artists pro­du­cing films. The asso­cia­ti­on inclu­ded artists the likes of Caro­lee Schnee­mann, Sil­vi­an­na Golds­mith and Mar­tha Edel­heit. At the same time, she starts working on a seri­es of self-por­traits with ani­mals.

Self-por­traits are the main sub­ject of the artist, giving them a who­le new aspect to this tra­di­tio­nal form, roo­ted in histo­ry of art.

A burs­a­ry of the Deut­schen Aka­de­mi­schen Aus­tausch­diens­tes (DAAD) allows her to stay in Ber­lin in 1978 for one year. Lass­nig crea­tes land­s­capes drawings and water­co­lours as well as gra­phic body awa­reness and con­scious­ness stu­dies. An inten­si­ve dia­lo­gue with aut­hor Oswald Wie­ner on cogni­ti­ve psy­cho­lo­gy influ­en­ces her work. Lass­nig then returns to New York and takes part in the 3rd Bien­na­le of Syd­ney. In 1980, Lass­nig returns to Vien­na and is appoin­ted at the Uni­ver­si­ty of App­lied Arts: she leads the mas­ter­class in pos­tu­re bet­ween 1980 and 1989. She tack­les expe­ri­men­tal pos­tu­res and focu­ses on pain­ting and ani­ma­ted films. At the 39th Bien­na­le of Veni­ce she repres­ents Aus­tria with VALIE EXPORT.

After taking over the Chair at the uni­ver­si­ty, Lass­nig paints self-por­traits that tack­le over­loading and depen­dence. On her holi­days in the Medi­ter­ra­ne­an in 1980 she pro­du­ces water­co­lours and land­s­capes fea­turing mytho­lo­gi­cal the­mes. In 1988, Maria Lass­nig is awar­ded the Gro­ße Öster­rei­chi­sche Staats­preis for visu­al arts, making her the first woman to ever recei­ve the reco­gni­ti­on. In the ear­ly 90s, Lass­nig deve­lo­ps chro­ma­tic figu­ra­ti­ons (Be-Zie­hun­gen and Mal­flüs­se), which are con­nec­ted to the Strich­bil­der of the 60s. In 1997, she takes part in the docu­ment x in Kas­sel with her 1960s and 1990s drawings. She offi­cial­ly finis­hes tea­ching at uni­ver­si­ty in Vien­na, des­pi­te not having actual­ly worked the­re any­mo­re sin­ce 1989. In 1998, she’s awar­ded the Oskar-Kokosch­ka pri­ze, and in 2002 she is awar­ded the Ros­wi­tha-Haft­mann pri­ze in Zurich as well as the ring of honour of the Uni­ver­si­ty of App­lied Arts in Vien­na, the Ruben­spreis of the city of Sin­gen (which makes her the first femal artist to recei­ve such a pri­ze), and the NORD/LB art pri­ze.

The year 2008 repres­ents the moment her inter­na­tio­nal fame booms thanks to an indi­vi­du­al exhi­bi­ti­on at the SERPENTINE Gal­le­ry in Lon­don fea­turing her ‘drastic pic­tures.’ In 2013, during the 55th Bien­na­le of Veni­ce, the Care­er Gol­den Lion is awar­ded to her. In 2014 fol­lows the indi­vi­du­al exhi­bi­ti­on at the MoMa PS1, Long Island City. Maria Lass­nig pas­ses away on on 6 May of that same year at the age of 94 in Vien­na. This snapshot of some moments of the life and her renow­ned awards allows us to see just how much the dyna­mic pre­sence of her work had an impact on art and how much of her work is cha­rac­te­ri­sed by inno­va­ti­on and artis­tic power. I am con­vin­ced that Maria Lass­nig will be a recur­ring name in any publi­ca­ti­on of some import tack­ling inter­na­tio­nal art after 1945. Her inde­pen­dent con­tri­bu­ti­on, her deter­mi­na­ti­on, her aggres­si­ve­ness, her vul­nera­bi­li­ty as well as bru­ta­li­ty and sca­thing self-cri­tique are being reco­gnis­ed on an inter­na­tio­nal level just now.

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1955 in Linz geboren, studierte Kunstgeschichte und Geschichte an der Universität Wien. Als Leiter des 1985 gegründeten Kunstforums Wien etablierte er von 1988 bis 2000 eine Ausstellungshalle mit wegweisenden Präsentationen von internationalem Zuschnitt, die für Wien wichtige Impulse setzte. Von 1996 bis 2000 wurde Schröder zum Vorstandsmitglied und kaufmännischen Direktor der neu gegründeten Privatstiftung Leopold berufen, und 1999 zum designierten Geschäftsführer der Albertina bestellt. Mit 1. Januar 2000 trat Klaus Albrecht Schröder als Geschäftsführer und Direktor der Albertina an, die eine der drei weltweit bedeutendsten grafischen Sammlungen, die neu gegründete Fotosammlung sowie eine einzigartige Architektursammlung beherbergt. Nach aufwendigen Erweiterungs- und Umbauarbeiten wurde die Albertina 2003 wiedereröffnet und positionierte sich innerhalb kürzester Zeit als das meistbesuchte Museum Österreichs. Sein Vertrag läuft bis Ende 2019. Über 100 Ausstellungen wurden seit 2003 in der Albertina präsentiert, rund 7 Mio. Besucher hat das vielseitige Ausstellungsprogramm seit damals bereits angezogen.

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