“SENGL PAINTS”: LARGE-SCALE RETROSPECTIVE AT THE LEOPOLD MUSEUM
Comprehensive exhibition on Peter Sengl’s 70th birthday
Vienna (OTS) – Celebrating Peter Sengl’s (* 1945) 70th birthday, the Leopold Museum is presenting the extensive, retrospective exhibition "SENGL PAINTS" from 30th October 2015 to 8th February 2016. The presentation features some 80 works by the artist who lives and works in Vienna, including paintings and works on paper, and also surprises with new works. The exhibition spans the artist’s oeuvre from early creations of the 1960s to his most recent works created especially for this presentation.
Radical and open: links to Schiele and Kubin
Franz Smola, the Curator of the Collection of the Leopold Museum, under whose aegis as interim Museological Director the Sengl exhibition was prepared, sees numerous links between Peter Sengl’s oeuvre and the works found in the Leopold Collection: "The sense of provocation and breach of taboos often encountered in Sengl’s oeuvre is reminiscent of Egon Schiele’s radically open exploration of sexuality and nudity, which met with suspicion and a lack of understanding among his contemporaries. Sengl’s pictorial worlds further evoke the bizarre oneiric worlds of Alfred Kubin."
First large-scale exhibition in Vienna since 2001
At 70 years of age, the artist remains highly active and exhibits his works several times a year.But almost 15 years have passed since the last comprehensive retrospective exhibition of Sengl’s works in Vienna, which was held by the Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien, the present-day Wien Museum, in 2001. Though Sengl’s oeuvre has since evolved, a common thread runs through the artist’s work and character: Sengl always works against the grain, combining figurative elements with surreal abstracting ones, while constructing and securing the components of his works.
Sengl’s oeuvre: singular and keen
The exhibition’s curator Carl Aigner on Sengl: “In the context of Austrian visual arts after 1945, Peter Sengl’s oeuvre is unique. With good reason has it eluded attribution to any contemporary art movements since the 1970s, and it certainly cannot be dismissed as ‘abstruse’ or possessing a ‘cabaret-like’ character. Sengl’s paintings are keen seismographic findings, narratives that serve as a diagnosis of our time. They elude an ethical assessment on account of their report-like status”. Carl Aigner recalls how difficult it had been to select the exhibits for this presentation from amongst the thousands of works created by this exceptionally productive artist: "We decided to look back from the present towards the past. We begin with his earliest works, show renderings from the 1960s and early 1970s and document Sengl’s equal passion for painting and drawing. For Sengl’s painting is drawing and his drawing is painting. He creates spaces with his painting, and his oeuvre is extraordinary in our ‘over-informed media world’. With good reason can Sengl be called a post-modern artist of the first media generation.”
The artist’s store of images
From what store of images do Peter Sengl’s idiosyncratic, wondrous pictorial worlds emerge? Carl Aigner found the answer in the cabinets in Sengl’s studio, where he discovered a “carefully arranged and preserved atlas of images”. Sengl takes pieces from the quarry of (art) history as well as from the picture depots of the printed media and develops a “citation strategy” from them. Franz Smola: "Peter Sengl is a narrative artist. His detailed renderings serve to tame the flood of images produced by the media over the past decades. One thing is certain: his images leave no one indifferent, for they get under people’s skin.”
In the network of animalistic nature
The main focus of Sengl’s oeuvre is on man in the network of animalistic nature and instrument-based existence.Sengl is interested in exploring the relationship between nature and man, which is tied to the question: "What is man?". For while we seek to dominate nature and to control it by means of elaborate technology, we are still a part of nature. Sengl’s vision of man is expressed in his machine figures which are cyborg-like beings, bio machines that are inserted into scaffolds and prostheses. Time and again, the artist either incorporates animal depictions into his compositions or makes them his main focus. Carl Aigner: “There is no hierarchy here. Animals are on a par with humans”. Sengl exhibited a special interest in animals early on. Ever since he first moved to Vienna, he has been a constant visitor to Schönbrunn Zoo and the study and analysis of animals is an integral part of his oeuvre.
Peter Sengl took a closer look at the collection of the Leopold Museum prior to his retrospective. “Not only did he single out several icons from the turn of the century to the 1920s, he took possession of them. Thus, he painted an extraordinary series for his retrospective”, according to the contributor to the catalogue Thomas Zaunschirm.
As opposed to other renderings of his that refer to works from art history, he not only took inspiration from the seven works he chose from the Leopold Collection but paraphrased them. Sengl comments: “They are not really copies but rather my exploration of the respective artist in my manner of painting. I take possession of their works by placing myself into their renderings. The result is always a picture of myself”.
Titles as literary miniatures
The importance of Sengl’s titles is significant, as they represent autonomous literary expansions of his images. Through them, the associative character of his works manifests itself in an extraordinary manner.
Sengl’s works: stages of a world theater
Sengl’s works not only represent stages of art history but stages of a world theater. The theatrical figurations in Sengl’s oeuvre were part of the reason why Michael Schottenberg, the former director of the Volkstheater and a longstanding friend of Peter Sengl’s, decided to deliver the introductory speech at the opening of the exhibition. Schottenberg’s text was also printed in the exhibition’s catalogue.
Peter Sengl was born 70 years ago in March 1945 south of Graz in Unterbergla, in the district of Deutschlandsberg. In 1963 he started studying at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts under Sergius Pauser. In 1965 the young artist met his future wife Susanne Lacomb at the legendary Vienna Café Hawelka. She was and still is not only a “model” in every sense of the word to the artist but has been his most important companion throughout his artistic career. In 1974 their daughter Deborah was born, who has become a successful artist in her own right.
Peter Sengl’s first exhibition was held in 1970 at the Forum Stadtpark in Graz. In 1971 he presented his works at an exhibition at the Künstlerhausgalerie in Vienna, which was initiated by Otto Breicha (1932–2003). To date, Sengl’s works have been presented in numerous solo exhibitions in Austria and abroad, while countless exhibition participationshave cemented his artistic status. Deserving a special mention are his solo exhibitions at the Neue Galerie (present-day Lentos) in Linz (1977), at the Austrian Institute in New York (1980), at the Museum of Modern Art (mumok) in Vienna (1988) as well as at the Salzburg Rupertinum, today part of the Museum der Moderne (1988), at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (1995), at the Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien (present-day Wien Museum – 2001) as well as at the Neue Galerie in Graz (2004).
The catalogue accompanying the exhibition
Accompanying the exhibition is a comprehensive catalogue edited by Carl Aigner and Franz Smola and published with Brandstätter publishers “SENGL MALT. EINE RETROSPEKTIVE” (Sengl Paints. A Retrospective) with essays by Carl Aigner, Michael Schottenberg, Franz Smola and Thomas Zaunschirm. Comprising approx. 128 pages and some 100 illustrations, the catalogue is available for 19.90 Euro at the Leopold Museum Shop.
Framework program on the exhibition "Sengl Paints"
The presentation’s curator Carl Aigner and the artist Peter Sengl will offer exclusive tours of the exhibition on Thursday, 12th November, and on Thursday, 7th January 2015, at 6 pm. A panel discussion with Carl Aigner, Peter Sengl and Thomas Zaunschirm will take place on Thursday, 12th November 2015, at 7pm.