Painting as Sculptural Process
In retrospect, the exhibition title that was chosen by Eduard Tauss to headline a solo presentation in a Vienna gallery around twenty years ago seems programmatic: called “itself”, it referred to a series of monochrome pictorial objects and synthetic resin colour fields applied to the wall, which proclaimed their autonomy and self-reference in the spirit of l’art pour l’art.¹ Since then, Tauss has been working consistently on an extended concept of painting; he has taken the ultimate step by “Stepping Out Of the Picture”² as formulated by the art historian Laszlo Glozer in 1981 when viewing the increasing hybridisation of the genres. The rejection of a narrative that could be oriented on one that exists outside the works and their creational process still forms a constant in his work, likewise the material substance upon which his works are based – pigmented polyurethane.
“My ideas come from painting even when I’m not painting”³, Donald Judd once said, thus stressing how intensively aspects of painting can flow into the concept of an interdisciplinary artistic praxis. Eduard Tauss’s art is also based on this approach. Colour, texture and light predominate in his works as essential parameters, even though the production process is sculptural. He casts the liquid and usually monochrome coloured plastic into a specially made basin and lets the material harden only to the degree that it is still mouldable. He runs the gamut from open to closed forms, from forms that unfold more on the flat surface to three-dimensional works. Work groups like “Colour Plate” and “Open Shape” can be directly associated with painting, while others, such as Tauss’s “Colour Bodies”, with their protuberances, indentations, twisting, invaginations and inversions, are shaped as distinctly object-like. This configuration process can be controlled only partially. Namely, transferring the flat mass of paint out of the casting device into a three-dimensional coloured object in space enables movement and gravitational force to unfold their effects. They release a material dynamic that inscribes itself as traces of colour and material in the objects’ hardened state. Thus in Tauss’s work the sculptural genesis of the objects always involves a previous action, a performative moment. It is as though the abstract shapes seem petrified in the middle of their metamorphosis – a process reminiscent of the snapshot in photography, freeze-framing an ongoing action at the decisive moment.
Eduard Tauss has liberated the paint from the canvas by amalgamating it with the substrate material itself. At the same time, he grants the starting material a life of its own, leaves the genesis of form to some extent to the sculptures themselves. His works hang, lean against the wall, are placed on the floor and on pedestals. At the latest in the combination and variability of these different forms of presentation, the artist takes the wind out of the sails of the discussion about genre-specific boundaries. Meanwhile, paint per se remains the incontrovertible and autonomous main protagonist in his artistic activity.
1 Eduard Tauss: itself, Galerie Lindner, Vienna, 13/11 – 20/12/2002
2 Laszlo Glozer: Westkunst. Zeitgenössische Kunst seit 1939, Museen der Stadt Köln, Cologne, 1981.
3 The quote precedes the catalogue for the exhibition “Malerei ohne Malerei”, ed. Dirk Luckow, Hans-Werner Schmidt, Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig, Leipzig, 2002.