Process – Paint – Form

Process – Paint – Form

Florian Steininger
Director Kunsthalle Krems


Paint in its material nature is the central theme in the art of Eduard Tauss. In contrast to the German language, English differentiates between “colour” as optical value, and “paint” as material constitution. Eduard Tauss is a painter in terms of process and form. Action and substance lead to the form and the work. He pours the liquid compound of polyurethane mixed with pigment onto the foil-covered studio floor. Slats or bars act as flexible casting mould. The act of pouring however is not an authorial or expressionistic gesture, but
an objective process.

Jackson Pollock’s splashes from his cans of paint or Hermann Nitsch’s violent splattering on the substrate are born of a mental turbulence, a physical and actionist energy, an active marking on the canvas. Andy Warhol reacted to this with his piss paintings; the assistants of the Pop artist urinated on the substrate, and the cupriferous paint oxidised, whereas Tauss holds himself back to a minimum in his characteristic physical and gestural style and lets the paint run out, lets it freely spread around within the limits. We are reminded here of Helen Frankenthaler’s soak-stain paintings in the colour field painting style. Frankenthaler was inspired by Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings and most of all by the black and white paintings of 1950/51, their untreated canvas thoroughly absorbing the splashed and dripped black paint in a kind of pen-and-ink drawing. In October 1952, Frankenthaler painted Mountains and Sea in her New York studio; she rolled out the untreated canvas, splashed thinned oil paint onto it, and the textile absorbed the pigments. Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland visited the young American painter and were overwhelmed by her groundbreaking soak-stain pictures. Hence, they went on to develop their specific colour-field painting style; the paint wets the canvas in large sections. They let the paint run free, emancipated from the physical and expressionistic character of the action painter. But all the positions named here actually have to do with classical forms of painting. The flows and splashes densify into a painting surface within the picture quadrangle tensioned on the stretcher frame. Top, bottom, left and right are defined, and eventually the picture is hung on the wall.

In contrast, Eduard Tauss abandons the classical window picture as rectangular form by letting the poured paint take on an organic, sculptural form. It might be flat pigment, or take shape as something corporeal and sculptural; after the dripping and splashing process, Tauss forms and morphs the substance before it hardens. Associations with bodily parts and skin surfaces crop up without the artist wanting to charge the work with motif or content. “I don’t want to tell stories.”1 The works are autonomous existences – articulations of painting. The flat pigment areas can be hung up on the wall like a picture, or, in the spirit of their creation, placed on the floor or on a pedestal. Unlike the colour field paintings of Frankenthaler and Louis, Tauss’s painted surfaces are not translucid or optically illusionistic, but opaque, like skin. Tauss uses subdued colours, without pop gloss; he shuts the imaginary window of painting. Paint is mass and materiality. In classical painting, accumulated clods of material on the canvas were taboo. Rembrandt’s and Courbet’s pastose, smeared application was criticised by the echelons of academe as sordid and slovenly daubs. The paint should be subjected to the illusionistic rendering of figure and reality, as optical medium. In Modernism, painting was analysed based on its essence; paint gained in significance as material substance – as in van Gogh’s pastose brushstrokes. Accordingly, in 1921, Alexander Rodchenko painted three paintings in the three basic colours. The important thing was the facture, the constitution and materiality of the painted surface, and not the opticality. In post-war modernism, Robert Ryman, Joseph Marioni, Brice Marden et al. maintained this primacy of materiality. Because of their material nature and process-based moulding, Eduard Tauss’s paintings demonstrate a specific sculptural quality that point to parallels in post-minimalism. Richard Serra sprayed liquid lead into the corner spaces, which solidified into sculptural traces; using string, Eva Hesse spun a weave in the three-dimensional space in reaction to Pollock’s cosmic drip-painting nets, and Robert Morris created anti-forms, flaccid felt mats hanging on the wall.

In the interrelationship between production and analysis, Eduard Tauss creates autonomous paint forms that proudly stand alone in their painterly nature.


1  Florian Steininger in conversation with Eduard Tauss in the artist’s studio, March 2022, Vienna.