With the “In den Schnee geschrieben” (Written in the Snow) exhibition, Galerie Wolfgang Jahn in Munich presents current works by the award-winning Austrian Hubert Scheibl, who recently celebrated his 70th birthday. The works, mainly created during the last two years in times marked by lockdowns, reveal new features in his multi-faceted oeuvre spanning many years.
Scheibl’s complex colour spaces and compositions with multiple layers consciously resist unequivocal interpretation. They astonish us by retaining the originality of the “not-depicted-yet” and the curiosity of the “unassignable”. His abstractions show us a cosmos of diverse sensory impressions. And yet they portray something that can scarcely be achieved by conventional means. For the creative works also repeatedly allow conclusions to be drawn about the creation of nature and life with the cyclical processes of emergence, gradual growth and decay, whereby this is conveyed purely through intuitive perception.
So when looking at his paintings, we are always inclined to surmise references to reality in painterly code, incisions and colour formations, which can be linked purely associatively to vegetal structures, calyxes, cell-like formations or, for example, ice floes drifting on the sea, but without the works presenting too many specific clues for this.
In this context, you may think of a tradition passed down from the great Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci, who already suggested an experiment more than 500 years ago, at a time when the development of abstract art was still a long way off: you should devote yourself to the intensive observation of speckle and cloud structures, because with the knowledge acquired during the course of life and the visual experience that goes with this, you can also discover imaginary images in their formations.
But Scheibl does not leave the viewer entirely alone with their imagination when he chooses meaningful titles for his paintings, such as “Euglena”, the name for a unicellar organism, or “Kalben” (Calving), the technical term for a floating mass of ice broken off a glacier, as well as the series of works entitled “In den Schnee geschrieben” (Written in the Snow), all of which build associative bridges to the figurative world.
The latter title not only refers to nature and its phenomenon “snow”, which Scheibl reproduces in this series of paintings in ostensibly white compositions, where the colours of spring and summer, which are not tied to forms, try to assert themselves under and over the white layer of paint. The name also allows us to draw conclusions about the ephemeral nature of the essence of everything, as what was written in snow is not carved in stone and is therefore only a temporary snapshot, which Scheibl nevertheless seeks to preserve in his works.
Scheibl’s abstractions are mostly based on many superimposed layers of paint that permeate one another, at times interweaving, overlapping, supplementing and replacing each other as if in a free weaving pattern and wrestling with each other in a permanent process of upheaval before the composition finds its final expression in a coherent moment that nevertheless tangibly conveys the dynamics of the painting process using a squeegee.
In his “Ones” series of paintings too, it is above all movement that Scheibl seeks to capture in a challenging way in the static medium of the picture. In front of backgrounds that change colour, which sometimes evoke the association with the celestial phenomenon of the aurora borealis, Scheibl uses a broad paint-soaked tassel to create painterly loops of movement that must be set in a single sweep without any interruption, an aspect that is also reflected in the title. These bands of colour abruptly change direction from top to bottom and left and right until V or U-shaped structures emerge, their presence swinging freely in space and appearing entirely spatial in their skilful rotation of direction, suggesting a painterly in front of and behind. As a result, they seem like a flickering ribbon in the wind, without, however, referring to this specifically. Like a plant’s growth process in a time-lapse shot, an expansive form expanding and unfolding, becoming an impressive presence, much like a butterfly after its pupation.
In the “Euglena” paintings, named after a unicellar organism, Scheibl pours liquefied silver paint onto a similar background on the canvas lying on the studio floor and, by distributing this and moving the image carrier in calculated chance mode, forms flowing shapes that drift apart, ultimately reminiscent of the appearance of amoebas, which he even manages to give a face with eye-like structures.
In the “Einzeller auf Reisen” (Travelling Unicellar Organism) graphic series, in which the artist uses sweeping brushstrokes and colour prints resulting from folds to create symmetrical structures that are distantly reminiscent of calyxes and cellular structures, it is also the simple forms of life at their origin which Scheibl devotes his attention to. Man and his traces do not feature in Scheibl’s work. You may get the impression that he prefers to focus on time and conditions before him or without him. Perhaps this is why Scheibl as an artist only sees himself modestly as an “euglena”, or unicellar organism.
Dr Veit Ziegelmaier