• German
  • English
 

The Depths of Time

Benedetto Fellin

PAINTING IS AT THE MERCY OF THE PERCEPTIVE EYE AND MUST, AS A SENSUAL STIMULUS, FIRST AND FOREMOST COME TO BEING IN FRONT OF THE EYE.

In anci­ent Greek there’s a word for a spe­cial expe­ri­ence: thau­maze­in (ϑαυμάζειν). It descri­bes more than just ‘ama­ze­ment’. It means ‘to be ama­zed, to be irri­ta­ted’. Fol­lowing this line of thought, I’ll ask a pro­vo­ca­ti­ve ques­ti­on: How ‘beau­ti­ful’ can pain­ting be? The ques­ti­on is pro­vo­ca­ti­ve becau­se our lips usual­ly utter not­hing else than that word when we are faced with an image we like. But the ques­ti­on is also pro­vo­ca­ti­ve becau­se we know that each of us is pri­ma­ri­ly con­cer­ned about our own needs and per­cep­ti­ons. I won­der if that’s always been the case. The­re have been peri­ods in histo­ry of art which, at least for a cer­tain peri­od, are thought to have had a more gene­ral con­cept of beau­ty, valid for an ent­i­re socie­ty. Anyo­ne who, for examp­le, takes a clo­ser look at Jan Eyck’s altar in Ghent, its over­all form, but also the con­sis­ten­cy of its aes­the­tics and effect cau­sed by even the smal­lest minia­tu­re fea­ture could be for­gi­ven for thin­king they’re expe­ri­en­cing not only the sen­se of beau­ty but also the spi­rit of the time in this work of art.

Art strug­gles with this claim, as do artists: to embo­dy one’s own ide­as and some­thing of the zeit­geist in the medi­um of art, even when the indi­vi­du­al rela­ti­ons­hip to art is pain­ful, cha­rac­te­ri­sed by ten­si­ons, con­tra­dic­tions, or sim­ply by the lon­ging for change.

FIRST STEPS
The dedi­ca­ti­on of the old mas­ters from the 15th cen­tu­ry to their work has been an atti­tu­de Bene­det­to Fel­lin sought hims­elf sin­ce the begin­ning of his edu­ca­ti­on. Born in Mera­no in 1956, son of artist Peter Fel­lin and gra­phic artist Her­ta Huber, Bene­det­to grew up in Graz after his par­ents sepa­ra­ted, then moved to Vien­na in 1972. He con­si­ders his care­er was shaped by the encoun­ters and the youth move­ments of the time. A 7‑met­re-long altar­pie­ce for the church of the grammar school he atten­ded is one of the 12-year-old’s pain­ter­ly expe­ri­ments. His decisi­on to beco­me a pain­ter was initi­al­ly con­so­li­da­ted by his elec­tri­fy­ing fasci­na­ti­on for sur­rea­lism. He immedia­te­ly expe­ri­en­ced the cha­ris­ma of the Vien­na School of Fan­tastic Rea­lism, dealt with com­ple­men­ta­ry colour pain­ting and in 1975, after his admis­si­on to the mas­ter­class lead by Pro­fes­sor Rudolf Haus­ner, was able to make a deter­mi­ned start on his path.

ENCOUNTERS
During his trai­ning, he gai­ned far-reaching per­so­nal expe­ri­en­ces: his long-term and inces­sant fasci­na­ti­on with Tibe­tan phi­lo­so­phy, the brief mar­ria­ge with a Vien­nese woman (tra­vel­ling with her to the Midd­le East), ano­t­her sojourn in India, whe­re he lived tog­e­ther with Tibe­tans for several mon­ths. This is fol­lo­wed by an exhi­bi­ti­on in Japan, mee­ting moun­tai­neer Pro­fes­sor Her­bert Tichy – who was tra­vel­ling­through Asia – who­se reports on his expe­ri­en­ces in Tibet great­ly inte­rest the young pain­ter. The Tibe­tan holy moun­tain, the Kailash, beco­mes a recur­rent pain­ting sub­ject throughout the 80s. In Vien­na, Fel­lin met art collec­tors Mar­ga­re­the and Peter Infeld, who­se friend­ly sup­port great­ly favou­red his artis­tic deve­lo­p­ment. Mee­ting Rein­hold Mess­ner also pro­vi­ded fur­ther inspi­ra­ti­on and con­fir­med he was on the right track vis a vis his artis­tic production.

The pain­ter is always drawn to far-flung pla­ces, from which he then returns to work in abso­lu­te seclu­si­on: he tra­vel­led to Bang­kok, East Afri­ca, Mexi­co, Bur­ma and Cam­bo­dia. A stu­dio on the Aus­tri­an-Hun­ga­ri­an bor­der is his refu­ge, pro­vi­ding him with peace and quiet when nee­ding to focus on his pain­tings, but he also lives and works in Vien­na. Tho­se who face Bene­det­to Fellin’s pic­tures unpre­pa­red fall into the sta­te of thau­maze­in: they’re sur­pri­sed, feel ali­enated at first glance. It’s a visu­al lan­guage that may not be unfa­mi­li­ar to a con­nois­seur of Vien­nese art and its pecu­lia­ri­ties, but it can unsett­le other view­ers and rai­se ques­ti­ons. An explo­ra­to­ry, curious, sear­ching eye is drawn into the unbe­liev­a­ble depth of the room in some pic­tures, or it gets caught up in the fore­ground, swept away by the sharp, shi­ning chro­ma­tic con­trasts, and dis­co­vers even more objects wit­hin the mul­ti­tu­de of depic­ted objects.

HIS SURROUNDINGS
Fel­lin grew up – artis­ti­cal­ly spea­king – as a pupil of the Vien­na School of Fan­tastic Rea­lism, who­se first repre­sen­ta­ti­ves inclu­ded his tea­cher Rudolf Haus­ner. The spe­ci­fic Aus­tri­an vari­ant of this art move­ment has to be ana­ly­sed in the con­text of a com­plex sys­tem of influ­en­ces incor­po­ra­ting Mannerism’s tech­ni­cal achie­ve­ments in pain­ting in the Nether­lands as well as the the­ma­tic and crea­ti­ve bre­akthroughs in Art Nou­veau (Vien­na Seces­sio­nists) and espe­cial­ly the radi­cal posi­ti­on of Sur­rea­lism. This crea­tes abso­lu­te free­dom for the dream­li­ke, uncon­scious and fan­tastic ele­ments in art and opens new pos­si­bi­li­ties to con­vey the spi­ri­tu­al ele­ment in a sen­su­al man­ner. The Vien­nese repre­sen­ta­ti­ves pick off from, as well as uphold, the tra­di­ti­ons of Euro­pean painting.

SENSUALISATION
Fel­lin con­si­ders hims­elf part of the rea­listic pain­ting tra­di­ti­ons and stands by his Euro­pean roots, but also r eaches bey­ond that. Espe­cial­ly his ideo­lo­gi­cal attrac­tion to Tibe­tan cul­tu­re, his eth­no­lo­gi­cal inte­rests for anci­ent cul­tures in gene­ral allow him to walk his own path. In this respect, he has lar­ge­ly left his artis­tic star­ting point, the Vien­na School of Fan­tastic Rea­lism, behind him. But he uses the acqui­red know­ledge of the fine pain­ting employ­ed by old mas­ters and their accu­ra­cy and care in the exe­cu­ti­on for his working method. He aims to recrea­te a life­li­ke depic­tion. An incredi­ble pain­ting effort, as pain­ting in oil and egg tem­pe­ra requi­res slow work and won’t allow any short­cuts, nor does it have time for any spon­ta­n­ei­ty. Is it worth the effort? When con­si­de­ring the intent behind repro­du­cing a rea­listic pro­cess, lies a spe­cial form of men­tal free­dom, which is important to Fel­lin: the artist’s free­dom, the ima­gi­na­ry, the well­spring of crea­ti­vi­ty – or, if you pre­fer, recrea­ting what doesn’t exist in natu­re – are used to illus­tra­te life­li­ke repre­sen­ta­ti­on and ther­eby to trans­port the view­er onto a spi­ri­tu­al plane.

Share Post
Written by

„Der Horizont des Menschen ist dem Phantasiebegabten und dem Suchenden immer zu eng. Benedetto Fellin ist ein phantasiebegabter Suchender. Ein Suchender in der Energie der Farbe, ein Suchender in der Tiefe der Zeit.“ Georg Mühlberger, (*1945 in Montan), Dr.phil., kunstaffiner Germanist und Historiker.

Shopping Cart
There are no products in the cart!
Continue Shopping
0