I was already in my twenties when I first discovered art. A random visit to the Kunsthistorisches Museum would obliterate years of strict technical education, and set my life on a new path. I became a student of the masters – Titian, Raphael, Rubens, Vermeer – and applied the techniques they taught me to the pictures of my childhood on a farm in the countryside. I found critical and commercial success quite early, and my work earned me a spot at the Academy of Fine Arts. I was still in my first year of school when I was featured in Vienna’s MOYA museum and spotlighted in two consecutive Art-Position exhibitions.
It has now been over a century that the art world has glorified theory and concept over technique and process. But in a world of outsourcing and globalization I believe this oversight is nothing short of immoral. A work of art is singular – a physical representation of the artist’s experience creating it. It cannot be reproduced, because its intrinsic value is the work that went into it. Hence the term work of art.
The art critics, historians and dealers may evaluate context, concepts and trends. But the artist, in the end, is a manual laborer, a painter, repeating the same strokes hundreds, thousands, millions of times until from them evolves a new character – Titian’s magical glimmers, Rafael’s flawless gradients – they reveal the masters’ artistry in a way concept and composition could never do. This is what I work to cultivate – a signature built from millions of strokes, that I could transform any more than I could not change the shape of my eyes or lines on my face.
Every new painting I start as if I were an abstract painter: First I create an interesting surface to the eye on the canvas. I then combine thick color layers with more translucent ones; or big brushstrokes with smaller ones; and warm colors with cold colors. By doing so, I keep balance between all those opposites in the image. The realism and the details of the painting come later, almost as a by-product of this process. I weave in the object – a figure or a landscape – into the existing abstract texture at the base of the painting.
Throughout the many layers of colors, the painting receives depth and density. And, by combining abstract and figurative elements, the image becomes intricate and more interesting to the eye. I often create a focal point of details to anchor the attention, while using blur in other areas to dim the perception, mimicking the behavior of visual memories and dreams.
The images I paint are still these memories of my childhood. Those Landscapes keep coming to my mind, the big blue sky with some white clouds… sometimes a figure is walking or standing in the scenery of a surreal world. All those memories of the past, which are gradually decomposing are the source of my inspirations but also purpose of my longing.
Michael Ornauer, December 2015