Thoughts on the actionist works of Eva Kaiser

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A picture is always more than what can be seen. An image is what is left over from a longer process of creation. It stands before us as the result of an extended process of development which, when it is at its beginning, is a departure into the unknown. An artist like Eva Kaiser sets to work to create a painting, but what it will actually look like she has no idea of yet. She does, however, have a concept of what it should not look like. That is why she follows the development of a painting with the greatest scepticism.

Then she is an artist and a critical authority at the same time. She follows the development with confidence and scepticism and knows when she has lost her way. Here the colours don't match, shapes emerge there that do not fit her image, and sbegins to correct them, rearranges the colour and formal relationships. In this way the picture changes, it gains strength, intensity and radiance. When does the inner glow begin, when does it stand there as an immovable quantity that is correct as it looks now and is no longer accessible to any further access from the outside?

The painting, when it is declared complete and deemed worthy of an exhibition, no longer reveals anything of this difficult event of gradual growth. The agony and the joy, the calculation and the spontaneity are suspended in it, are no longer to be seen. But without this agony and this joy, without this calculation and spontaneity, it would not be there. But if you look closely, these images do something comparable to this to us. They torment us because they leave us alone, do not help us to find our way in this Eva Kaiser world. They delight us because, if we don't get any help, we take the freedom to move around in the picture according to our own ideas. We look at how the colours interact with each other when they collide directly, we observe how forms and structures emerge that cannot be found elsewhere, we marvel at how a unity emerges that is the result of movements that are independent of each other. These pictures lead us to calculate, because we rely on our reason when we are left to our own devices, and so we look for reasonable explanations, stick to what is visible, to the violent brushstrokes, the flowing of the colours, pay attention to where a centre can be found towards which everything rushes and from which everything strives away. We follow the movements inscribed in the paintings. We gradually find out where events crowd in and where places open up where standstill has set in. Thus we become restless because the movement, the drama of colours and forms does not allow us any time out, and we entrust ourselves to a contemplative mood when we fall under the spell of the balanced, calm surface.

This is not a contradiction: Eva Kaiser's pictures are violently moved and come to a standstill at the same time, it just depends on which side of the emotional barometer we allow ourselves to be sent to at any given moment. On the night side of the calculator is spontaneity, and so Eva Kaiser's works cannot be had without this state of exposure. Kaiser relies on the quick gesture, the unpredictable idea that arises now and only now. She abandons herself to the wildness of the inner, untamed will to express, which does not want to be beautiful, perfect and successful, but wants to leave its individual trace of the momentary feeling. Only at a distance does the artist see what to make of these spontaneous volcanic eruptions of hers and begins to rework, shape, reshape the picture, taming her spontaneity through the power of her will. So these pictures are a constant struggle between reason and unreason, spontaneity and control. And anyone who wants to can see that this struggle is far from over. It is still taking place in every single picture. The frenzy attacks the organisation, the well thought-out structure comes into conflict with the unformed, raw matter. Each painting is a new attempt to come to terms with this inner tension in colour and form.

Eva Kaiser studied with Jacobo Borger and Hermann Nitsch, letting herself be influenced but not pressured by them. She has acquired the tools of the trade and is now on her way to finding her own identity as an artist. Others do that too, but it is easier for those who resign themselves to imitation. They are content with what they can do, they are not pushed to undermine the limits of what is easily possible. Eva Kaiser, however, exposes herself anew with each picture to the risk of trying out something that would not exist without her.

"Woe to him who sees symbols", says Samuel Beckett, the great poet from Ireland. He could have created the leitmotif for Eva Kaiser's art, which can be seen here. She refuses to make a copy of the visible world. She resists with all her might to speak in hints and abbreviations that say something about the state we are in at the moment. As soon as she has the feeling that she could have put fragments - however hidden - of a reality that is familiar to us into the picture, she begins to destroy this appearance. Her images are colour and form, they come from the depths of the ego, where no one can really see in, not even she herself. Hence this astonishment at the result, the visible remnants of an ego in turmoil.

Isn't that all rather private now? Why should we be interested in the emotional ups, downs and downs of a person with whom we are not really familiar?

We can protect ourselves from the attack of the emotional world on the security of our well-ordered world by distancing ourselves, letting the picture work as an organised surface in its entirety, admiring the play of colours, delighting in hard cuts and soft transitions, observing how a background sets in when colours override others and push themselves into the foreground. Then we see art as an aesthetic phenomenon that cannot harm us because, when it hangs peacefully on the wall, the combative process of becoming has already run its course.

We can expose ourselves to this attack of the emotional world on our well-ordered world by abandoning ourselves to the process character, by allowing ourselves to be drawn into the world of these images vibrating with tension, in which everything is open, because the dynamics of the struggle of the elements among themselves continues in our soul. Then we are prisoners of Eva Kaiser, who has put us under the spell of her images, and no counter-magic can help.

Dr Anton Thuswaldner
Journalist

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Firenze during the festive season

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Museum Stift Klosterneuburg - Sala terrena Gallery - The Good Works

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hermann nitsch action painting

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