The Paintings of Fritz Ruprechter
There is a continuous, perhaps even obsessive, effort in the paintings of the Austrian artist Fritz Ruprechter to create a picture that distinguishes itself from the mundane, with pictorial autonomy and a plastic structure close to the spiritual core of the world that surrounds us. His work is undeniably grounded in analytical and modernist principles according to which “art is entitled to its own individuality – not in order to separate, butto serve by example as a model for other knowledge and practices” (Filiberto Menna).
Ruprechter is a staunch exponent of the minimalist, concrete and geometric. A quiet, systematic devotee, he frequently explores and experiments with surface flatness as a material fact possessing an individuality that pictures and painting do not share with any other visual technique. We may recall that it was Greenberg who said that it is in fact flatness (the plane, surface, two-dimensionality) that is most fundamental to modernist pictorial art. In exploring the surface, the artist deals directly with the real questions of the picture in its ontological manifestations. Because of this, Ruprechter’s works are non-referential, abstract. His painting is not directed at the external world but is born from the artist’s profound need to discover the new and autonomous world of the picture. In creating the cycle “Ever tried, ever failed ...” Ruprechter produced one watercolour a day between August 2006 and the end of July 2007. All these pictorial variations on one compositional theme are like diary entries in which the artist notes his mood, the swing of his sensibilities. Autobiographical as they are, these fairly small, abstract picture-beings are a paradigm for the artist himself. Ruprechter’s non-referentiality, then, is nonetheless dependent on how he himself experiences the world. He is an “artist, a specialist in his field”, who supremely manages to produce authentic picture-surfaces with overtones of engaged art. This painterly persuasion begins to work on the observer once he or she has recognised some of the principles applied: simplicity, order, harmony, verticality, construction ... All these rationalist ideas occur in Ruprechter’s pictures and are urged upon us as suitable mechanisms for combating the widespread feeling of menace engendered by our advanced civilisation, and which increasingly overwhelms, frightens and exhausts us.
In order to produce this kind of picture, Fritz Ruprechter’s approach is exploratory and experimental, his entire oeuvre usually comes from what is called the “expanded field” of painting. He often attunes his tile-like pictures (on wood, thick cardboard, transparent paper and so on) to the architecture, such as the elongated, transparent works that spoke to the translucent Gothic windows of the church at Wiener Neustadt, or combines them into the ambient space by simply leaning them against a wall. His corner pictures, to be hung in the angles formed by the walls of a room or gallery, are remarkable.
Fritz Ruprechter is no follower of conventional procedure. His works are at once painted and crafted. He usually paints on paper which is then dipped in melted wax and, literally, ironed onto a wooden base. The paraffin coating enhances the pictorial artefact, lending it a fine tactility and enriched aesthetic appeal. In watercolours painted on transparent paper, a thin coat of wax accentuates the transparency, augmenting the pictorial aspect by including light and stimulating the reverse side of the picture. When creating works on thick cardboard, the artist uses a hobby-knife to incise a line, removes layers of paper and configures the surface. By pressing a pencil on the reverse of a watercolour, even lines – the most abstract phenomenon of all fine art – become relief: tangible, real and present.
In this exhibition, Fritz Ruprechter present us with a seris of new pictures which follow on from his work of the last few years. In these new geometric paintings, there is certainly an echo of the principles of neoplasticism contained in the epochal ideas of Mondrian, van Doesburg and others. Ruprechter’s work constantly suggests congruence and harmony; he is determined to impose these ideas on his viewers and on society at large, entertained as it is by the seductive consumer images dominating our billboard iconosphere. These images are fairly ruthless, as apart from being generally machine- or computer-generated, they address a range of human situations with the calculated objective of driving us to various undertakings, types of behaviour or interrelations by mounting an aggressive attack on our mental well-being and emotions. In this kind of context, Fritz Ruprechter’s pictures fulfil a mission of a very different kind: they make us the gift of an honest, quiet, calming, rather formally elegant pictorial aesthetic with a poetics of its own; they give us hope and confidence in the creative potential of man and artist. And it is art of this kind that we are most in need of today, because “Art cannot change the world, but it can make it better and more bearable.” (Dostoyevsky).
Translated by Mary Thompson-Popovic