Embodying Colour

On the Colour Bodies by Eduard Tauss

Michael Post, Heiner Thiel


In their raw state, we perceive colours as bodies, in the form of mere pigment accumulations or of pigments bound in a range of liquid to viscous media. This is quite remarkable because colours are actually meant to expand their volume when processed to acquire a more planar appearance and – moreover – are also produced almost exclusively for the purpose of that type of processing.

The extent of their liquefaction defines the future function of colours, and a considerable range of expansion options are available for colouring surfaces to let their bodies appear in a new light. The visual effects of the unlimited variety of colours which can be applied in differing consistencies can best be appreciated in the paintings and coloured sculptures of all epochs in the history of art. Our perception of pictorial contents in their context of differing artistic intentions is shaped decisively by their colour-painted components. Colour changes real bodies, supports the feint of three-dimensional facts in panel paintings – and it also defines the real colour spaces of our time in their decidedly planar manifestations. In all the different types of these phenomena, the respective consistencies of the colour substances is what permits using them flexibly in the most diverse painterly genres, be they representational, abstract or concrete. The physical presence of colour participates in the effect of a painting just as, in turn, the pictorial appears to be immanent in colour. This is the starting point of Eduard Tauss’s sculptural colour substances:

“The works by Eduard Tauss relativise traditional conceptions of painting and, in particular, viewers’ expectations as to what constitutes a picture. But he is less concerned with the highly complex reality of colour than with the process of its production, the substance of its material and the relationship between colour and materials. In an innovative form, Tauss addresses a problem that has so far found little attention, but in fact presents an elementary ontological problem. The difference between the presence of a colour conditioned by light and the compact mass of the synthetic resin is a source of inspiration for Tauss.”¹

The autonomy of colour, a concept that emerged in the context of nonrepresentational painting, is taken one step further here: Colour has even emancipated itself from its picture substrate, turning itself into an expression of itself and an object for perception in space through its own plastic substance. In creating his works, Tauss is supported in finding the appropriate sculptural forms by what he regards as the ideal physical properties of colours bound in synthetic resin: “The colour is not painted, but cast. It is at first a dynamic mass, which ultimately solidifies. Casting is itself part of the act of forming. The transformation of the initially flat cast form into the plastic form takes place in direct dialogue with the material.”² During the phase of hardening, there are stages which permit forming by bending, folding, pushing, pressing or forcing. The nature of the material requires fast conformation and swift reactions. The spontaneous influence on the formable mass by exertion of personal force involves the acting body in the process. Tauss ascribes a performative character to the respective psychical and physical preconditions of the creative act. In their finished state, his sculptural wall objects and fully plastic works not only render traces of the actions on the material and its specific reactions clearly apparent. They are themselves the expression of a past temporary course of action that has solidified. Based on the laws of gravity, the works tend to flow downward while still soft, which evokes notions of lowering or falling when viewing the hardened forms, especially if they hang on a wall.

What we really see is three-dimensional, like colour in its raw state described at the start. The transformation of this material in the described artistic context presumes the recognition that the phenomenon of painting which appears constitutive for our perception, i.e. that it usually unfolds on two-dimensional surfaces, enters into Tauss’s works in a paradoxical manner and coalesces with them.

1  Heinz Gappmayr: Eduard Tauss, exh. cat., edition ps, Vienna, 2003, p. 14.
2  Michael Post and Heiner Thiel in conversation with Eduard Tauss in the artist’s studio, 2013, Vienna.