Gallery Run: Why Painting Now?

Presented with a Daguerreotype reproduction on copper in 1839, French painter Paul Delaroche thought he saw the writing on the wall. “From today,” Delaroche proclaimed, “painting is dead.” Since then, almost two centuries have passed – and still, we paint. 

But the question didn’t go away. The 20th century was full of questions about whether painting had become obsolete, and why it had lost so much ground to other media, like photography, film, video, performance art or installation.

But painting itself has since progressed with technology; it has become a pliable art form, one that changes and adapts and exceeds limits of the canvas.

A city-wide event presents different takes on painting and its possibilities. Internationally renowned curators in 20 Viennese galleries ask Why painting now? It is the fifth edition of “curated by vienna”, a project funded by departure – The Creative Agency of the City of Vienna.


[everything becomes mysterious]

Matthew Hunt, Jeremy Hutchison,
Kununurra Artists, Gil Leung,
Wolfgang Tillmans, Cathy Wilkes

Falling into or Against is being shown at the Christine König Gallerie | Film Still: Gil Leung

Falling into or Against is being shown at the Christine König Gallerie | Film Still: Gil Leung

“Painting is a philosophical enterprise that doesn’t always involve painting,” art critic Howard Haile is quoted in the event’s catalogue. And in this exhibition, in fact, you won’t see a single one.

Curator Sophie O’Brien decided to approach the theme by showing artists addressing the questions of painting, but using other media.

To some extent, this choice reflects the idea inherited from the ‘60s, that painting would only survive outside its specific medium, as a set of questions or problems that would be pondered and transmitted through other media.

The first room of the gallery has photographs by Wolfgang Tillmans that show various combinations of a group of paintings in the same space, presenting possibilities of relating to and influencing each other, making one more prominent than another.

A particularly remarkable photograph portrays the darker rectangle that is left after a painting is removed from its long-time position. The sun has lightened the wall around it, as a subtle reference to its absence.

In the second room, the video Falling into or Against shows footage of female figures combined with commentaries on painting.

Here, the artist grapples with the concept of “flatness”, a term coined by Clement Greenberg and used to describe the two-dimensional “purity” of post-abstractionist painting.

Gil Leung explains that, “flatness here [deals with] the sheer opacity of that which is presented.

Images that move through the seductive pull into something other than self, falling into or against.”


Christine König Galerie

4., Schleifmühlgasse 1A



Martin Barré, Fred Sandback

Bois thinks Matrin Barré’s paitings use space similarly to Fred Sandback

Bois thinks Matrin Barré’s paitings use space similarly to Fred Sandback | Photo: S. Wessling

This exhibition intertwines Martin Barré’s paintings and Fred Sandback’s sculpture/installations. The challenge for curator Yve-Alain Bois was to find an artist whose work could be presented with Fred Sandback’s within the premise of the event.

He chose the French painter Martin Barré as he saw a similarity in, “something about the way they use space”.

In the context of Why Painting Now? it’s interesting that Barré stopped painting for three years, questioning whether it still made sense. In 1971 he returned to the medium, having decided that it still had something to say.

Both artists had a conceptual phase before turning minimalistic and they share a desire to cling to a specific medium.

While one paints and the other creates sculpture/installations with coloured threads, the connection between the two is hard to miss. The linearity of Sandback’s structures is reflected in Barré’s geometric approach.

Though often conceived in abstract, Sandback’s works depend upon the space that contains them. By contrast, Barré restricts himself to the pictorial space, from the size of the canvas to his well-known concentration on gesture and technique.

Nevertheless, both artists deal with space and transparency, alluding to some invisible spatial structure, that doesn’t necessarily confine, but establishes itself as a constant.



7., Breite Gasse 17



Walter Swennen

“Painting doesn’t need an alibi”: Curator Miguel Wandschneider |

“Painting doesn’t need an alibi”: Curator Miguel Wandschneider | Photo: Siggy Verelst

“Stupidity is the name of the real when the thinking is in dispute. Painting has to do with the real. So I keep myself busy with stupidities.” This was Walter Sweenen’s response to Marcel Duchamp’s well-known phrase “as stupid as a painter”, a dismissal of painting as reproduction.

In this show, curator Miguel Wandschneider decided to take a different approach. Since we are no longer in the ‘60s, when questioning painting was essential to open up new and extraordinary perspectives in the art world, here, Wandschneider defends the need for a critical stand towards that heritage.

He avoids discursive questions in favour of art itself; since painting is the motif of this event this medium cannot escape its physicality.

In the curator’s words, “Painting doesn’t need any alibi.” So, unlike the aforementioned exhibits, the Walter Swennen show gives a direct answer to the question, “Why Painting Now?”

This painter’s career has been erratic, evading any certain style or constancy in procedures or parameters, making it virtually impossible to achieve a narrow or reductive understanding of his works.

He prefers a modest approach to painting, free of arrogance, working with improvisation and deviation, remaining “very close to life, in all its contingencies and unlikely aspects”.

As a result, this exhibition presents a multiplicity of detail and possibilities that make it seem like the product of a group rather than a single individual.


Galerie nächst St. Stephan 

Rosemarie Schwarzwälder

1., Grünangergasse 1


Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » appearance » Widgets » and move a widget into Advertise Widget Zone