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David Holzinger – between image and object, material and structure

David Holzinger is self-taught; he never completed a specialist course of studies in art. This fact, which certainly doesn’t facilitate his integration into the art world in general, on the other hand affords certain freedoms to the individual, an a-priori independence from the conventions of artistic work and thought.

David Holzinger grew up in Carinthia, Southern Austria, and still lives in this Federal State; however, as an artist, he withdrew completely from the art tradition of his home region (specifically the Carinthian, but also the Austrian in general), which is described primarily as having an affinity to figural, painterly, emotional-expressionist and colourist elements. David Holzinger’s artistic quest revolves far more round themes arising from an abstract approach in painting style. And he works freely according to his own needs and impulses.

Basically, David Holzinger’s artistic work is centred around questions of pure visual imagery, an aspiration to come to terms with the work concept per se and in particular the artistic material and its structural potential. If we wish to trace an orientation or point of reference in this approach, for David Holzinger we could certainly name the Carinthian artist Hans Bischoffshausen, who, after connecting up with ZERO and in contact with Lucio Fontana in Paris in the 1960s, developed his reductive, minimalist and abstract work (however, his return to Austria in the 1970s at first found scarcely any response). This position, long overtaken by a younger generation oriented on the achievements of the (international) post-war avant-garde and which it developed as a matter of course, has now become established and embedded in the history of art. Bischoffshausen’s work made him a permanent force in Carinthia itself, also in the public space, and to the present day he has never ceased to have a formative influence on many succeeding artists, including Ferdinand Penker und Julian Taupe, also Michael Kravagna, Manfred Mörth and Eric Kressnig. There are unmistakably variant points of reference also to be found in David Holzinger’s works, whether in his restrained approach, in a certain tendency towards monochromism or above all in the treatment of the material and the structure; also in the inclination to express three-dimensional space, from the (flat) surface into an object. In addition, some clearly American features of abstract painting also influence David Holzinger’s works, elements of colour-field painting, the principles of Allover or Shaped Canvas – impacted of course by man if old post-modern modulations.

David Holzinger’s artistic work shows neither reference to the object nor relation to the visible outside world; it refers to dispositions that are purely immanent to the work and evolves out of their logical analysis. In permanent sequence, an observation, an idea, one step yields the next, a result that triggers the impulse for a further, subsequent attempt. In this way the various series crystallise within the oeuvre.

Starting point of the works is always the two-dimensional area of the picture square offering itself for exploration (even if this is rapidly overridden in favour of spatial variants), whether of paper, canvas, plywood panels or pieces of wood. His artistic interests and his quest are centred on the very different media he applies to create the aesthetic form. They cover an unusual and wide range: the classical paints of acrylic and oil, emulsion paint and lacquer handled as physical, mouldable substances, as well as sawdust, adhesive tapes, cotton threads and linen fabrics with their various haptic and optical properties. Likewise significant and wide-ranging are the tools he uses and the specific options they offer: brush, pencil, pen and stylus, scraper, knife, scissors and sometimes even the Bunsen burner.

As much as David Holzinger works as a draughtsman and painter, he is far more a constructor and craftsman; with courage and commitment he makes use of the things he finds by chance in his studio – and straightaway, according to how they appear useful to him. He screws and glues, mixes and pours, cuts and binds, rips apart and burns, disassembles prefabricated elements, adds to them, and assembles them anew.

David Holzinger gets to work in a nonchalant and unconventional manner. There is nothing here that tallies with the expectations and conventional categories of painting; far more, he challenges its potential and limits, he reflects its possibilities, analyses and augments them in a conceptual framework. He instrumentalises unorthodox means here in a similarly unconventional manner, works in an surge of creativity, virtuosic, released from classical models based on materials, techniques and methods; he not only questions the fixed values of image, surface and object, but turns them completely on their heads, thus obtaining results that are as challenging and refreshing as they are unusual – imposing and inventive results hovering between two- and three-dimensionality, between flatness and three-dimensional space, image and object.

In the initial phase of his artistic activity David Holzinger’s work gestates primarily on paper, and, to a lesser extent, parallel on the canvas. Emerging from this we find more or less classical, non-objective graphics of small and medium format, fine-nerved hand-drawings with pen and ink and watercolours or markers, in which there is a tendency from the very beginning towards a (frequently geometric) structuring of the space on one hand, and, on the other, featuring a formless and aleatory, polychrome experiment – two contrary methods that are executed deliberately as simultaneous and overlapping, eventually merging into richly suspenseful conceptions. Both, planned structure and free experiment, order and chance, reason and emotion, remain the determinants in his work. It never heads towards singularity of meaning, it never provides a simple solution or a clear answer, the result lies far more in antagonism, in both method as well as in the pictorial result. Black meets white, the gestural meets the geometric, flatness meets three-dimensional space, order meets chaos, homogeneity meets heterogeneity, hermetics meet transparency, construction meets destruction, harmony meets dissonance. An answer demands a new question, one action demands the next. Nothing simply stands still, the way it is. And during the act of creation, the artist’s stringent dialogue with his medium is enacted like a process-based experiment targeting something new, something unexpected, from action to action, from work to work, from series to series.

David Holzinger’s artistic work is about organisation, respectively composition, on the space of the pictorial square; it is about centralisation or a contradictory allover gesture, about rows, preferably about geometric, horizontal divisions of the pictorial space, about proportions, dimensions and volumes, but also about spatial layering and overlapping, about colours and materials, which are then counteracted and made visible and conceivable in their essence through an intervening element, mostly a small detail, a partial act, a removal or addition. In this way Holzinger leaves traces – traces of the creative act, of intervention and traces of reflection, of the creative potential of material and form; he questions the work and its conditions, tests convention categories and finds new. Important to him are considerations pertaining to the genesis of the work, how and whence something is born, changes, transforms, even dies away, only to re-emerge in a new form.

The procedure and contexts are significant. The rules, their system and the possibilities of their modulation – quasi as scenario of artistic action – have to be illuminated, exploited to the full and redefined.

What all the works share in common is a fundamental, expansive moment that can appear on different levels: in the visual structure on the picture’s surface that can spread out and fill the space all the way to the edges, or, in serial sequences, in the rowed structure of (horizontal) compartments.

This tendency is also demonstrated in his treatment of the material; in the use of tactile substances, such as mixtures of lacquer and acrylic; in the haptic media and also physically in the structure of the works, in the stacking of multiple levels of different painting media, of paper or canvases, of wood and other materials. The originally flat pictorial ground is voluminously enlarged. Its form spreads across the surface and out, into the outside space and beyond the edges; openings in the paper or linen ground by cutting, scratching, tearing, folding, unfolding and rolling not only result in smooth cuts and naked holes but also sculptural configurations, fragile forms, small, bizarre sculptures that engender shadowplays and ephemeral optical phenomena, and accordingly determine the work’s spatiality. They expose layers lying beneath and access the surrounding space, supplementing this by tying and tightening threads, glueing strips and bands, which divide up the areas, destroy proportions and set up new, usually opposing arrangements. They emphasise the physical expansion, the transformation of the originally two-dimensional substrate into a three-dimensional object.

This gives rise to formal-aesthetic, poetic and lyrical works; they are also conceptual outcomes of factual and objective explorations, their power being based on the language of the elemental media of material, colour and form. At the same time – as vehicle of reflection, cognition and perception – they communicate things about their production, qualities and specifics.


Christine Wetzlinger Grundnig

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