The key to Herbert Brandl’s painting is the flow of the narration through the unnamed, distant from superfluous categories or common places. If the disjunction between figurative and abstract art is slowly becoming obsolete, the case of Herbert Brandl is a magnificent example that demonstrates the nonsense that this banal differentiation represents. The flood of stains and brushstrokes that come close to being considered abstract are, in Brandl’s painting, the result of an unconscious disappearance of the subject. However, we are not talking about a painting without a subject, or a painting whose subject is the painting itself, but what has happened is that the figure, the subject and the direct source of the image that emerge have decomposed amongst the colors and brushstrokes that alternate between the impetus and vehemence of a visceral painter and those of a calm, calculating, and thoughtful one.
Thus, in what is now his fifth exposition at the Heinrich Ehrhardt gallery, the Austrian painter presents his most recent work, titled River Madrid Schwarze Sulm (it is important to remember that the individual works presented at the gallery give allusion to the city of Madrid). These allusions and references, far from being gratuitous, refer to ideas of travel, the concept of place, the very idea of being inside of the painting, inhabiting the painting, which constitutes one of the cornerstones of Brandl’s artistic productions. It is, of course, an abstract painting, but even though it may not be appreciated at first glance, it is also a figurative painting. It is a painting that generates waves and in which swells of paint move the themes and subjects from one place to another. Magical sequences of movement that discover what at times appears to be hidden: Mountains, landscapes, rivers.
Between extraordinary ranges of color in which sometimes placid, sometimes torrid, color pallets are mixed, a colossal painting is constructed whose scope, which goes beyond its size and shape, appears to devour the spectator in a brutal whirlwind. Temperatures and climates that give homage to the most memorable paintings in Western history such as Toledo by El Greco, Rubens’ stormy landscapes, El Bravo by Tiziano or The Colossus by Goya. The brooding painting style developed by Brandl has so many and such disparate references, colors used, and mixes in the pictorial flow that it is difficult not only to guess what it is we are seeing, but it is difficult to guess how it is. It is in this very question that Brandl stops to show, between layers, coverings, surfaces, backgrounds, tones, and hues, the trickery of his painting.
We can find the spectator absorbed in the act of looking at the colossal development of his work. Maybe it has always been this way, but now this painting slides on and off and filters through with extreme agility between the frame and the canvas. It is a game of focusing and un-focusing that gives the eye the complex task of concentrating. It is a painting that gives and takes. It is a painting which requires an attentive eye, but in which one can find priceless and full delight.