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The dimensions of colourfulness

Compositions of tones that lie in layers and thus tell of the apparent impossibility of the simultaneous. They tell of the fact that the individual work does not exclude parallelism and that the colour pigment is ultimately only the beginning of what is essentially constituted only in the gaze.

Michael Ornauer, born in Vienna in 1979, where he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts with Hubert Schmalix and Amelie von Wulffen, provides precise suggestions for imprecise quantities of our perception. This may be due to his career. After trial years in figuration, the artist switched to abstraction. However, it was not so much a turning away as a turning towards what had long been part of his work. Ornauer practiced focusing his gaze on the moments between the depictions. On the surfaces that formulate each painting ground, sometimes more and sometimes less. In 2017, finally, „the object that you put on the painting,“ according to Ornauer, was completely obsolete. The in-between, the search between abstraction and surface, became the main actor in the work. In the restriction proposed by the stretcher frame, Ornauer tests the limits of the painting ground and the moment from picture to object. This is done in very different series of works, all of which question the very foundations of painting . Whether Ornauer grinds the layers of paint so that their bottom appears, whether he experiments with the materiality of chalkboards, as he does now, or, as in his new works, models oil right over the edge of the canvas. Anything is possible here between geometry and colour gradient. Michael Ornauer is an advocate of painting, considers its nude as „spectacle“, its concrete statements as „overrated“. Painting is „the form into which I pour“, says the artist. A physical act in which he examines the parameters of his actions. It also tests how far he is allowed to go towards the beautiful. That rejected idea of modernism, which only with courage allows a resumption in art. Michael Ornauer faces this provocation. 

Speaking to Konrad Paul Liessmann, beauty is suspected of being merely a false harmony. But Liessmann further concludes that beauty is not only determined by pleasantness and proportion, as the ancient world thought, but that these ideas were rightly deconstructed in modernity. And thus Michael Ornauer’s work, driven by intuition, is logically completed at the breaking points. By not only accepting the flaw, but challenging it, the artist finds a new harmony that is not calculated from symmetry, but develops a kind of balance in the unbalanced. By balancing the teachings of form and measure with the immoderateness of charm, Ornauer discusses a new concept of beauty. He is concerned with a beauty that captivates in that it suggests truth in its supposed imperfection

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. A stimulus that allows proximity to the viewer because it breaks the sublime moment of abstraction in the real and thus formulates aesthetic ideals in space and as an object, as a counterpart to the viewer. It is precisely this colorfulness that Ornauer has created alliances along the way. „The colorfulness has been driven out of us,“ the artist tells of his urge for color, which he learned to pursue. Mere pleasantness has little to do with it.

The premises of beauty are not only put to the test by Michael Ornauer, but are completely renegotiated. As Liessmann writes: „Beauty is also a risk“. Thus harmony is not always confirmed in absolute symmetry and simple proportionality, but in the balance of Apollonian and Dionysian values. In the simultaneousness of the allegedly bipolar.

Paula Watzl, June 2020