The stories behind a painting can be fascinating. But what about the stories behind the materials used to make that painting? That’s the premise of a new Johanna Kandl exhibition in Lower Belvedere’s Orangery.
- Explores issues surrounding materials used in creating art, such as provenance, economics & sustainability
- Illustrates this by juxtaposing these materials with paintings
- Runs Sept 13, 2019 – Jan 19, 2020
- Just a normal museum entrance ticket required
- Mainly German text (but a free booklet contains English translations)
- See also: Belvedere times and tickets info
“Material. What We Paint with and Why”
(Press photo © H.& J. Kandl, 2018)
Apparently, a picture is worth a thousand words (whoever said that has never seen one of *my* pictures, unless those words are just a series of expletives). Anyway, there’s a story to every painting. The one in the painting and the one behind its creation.
But if we ever give consideration to the materials used to create that painting, it’s usually from a technical perspective. The Kunsthistorisches Museum, for example, often has exhibitions with lovely details about the techniques used to create a piece of art.
In this exhibition in the early 18th-century orangery at Lower Belvedere palace, the Austrian artist, Johanna Kandl, invites us to examine another story entirely by asking different kinds of questions.
Not so much “How are the materials used?” but “What are they?”, “Where do they come from?” and “What issues are raised by their use?” Tools and colours have their own complex story to tell.
So Kandl’s interest is less about material science and more about geography and socioeconomics. For example, how does resin production impact economic sustainability for the local population? What are the environmental consequences of pigment mining?
A renowned artist herself, Kandl has researched these material stories in situ, travelling to the likes of Sudan and Sumatra while doing so.
Within the exhibition, the objectivity of Kandl, the documentary observer, combines with her personal experience as, for example, an artist and trained conservator.
Documents, photos, and videos illustrate and explore relevant issues and perspectives. Added resonance comes from placing materials in close proximity to Kandl’s own works and also paintings selected from Belvedere’s extensive collections.
Given my ignorance of all such matters, simply discovering all the different materials that go into a painting was a pleasure – not just pigments, but brushes, turpentine, gum arabic, and similar.
Note that in the exhibition itself, all text is mostly in German. An exhibition folder has complete English translations, plus an index for all the paintings on display. Unfortunately, the folder is easy to miss – look for dispensers on either side of the entrance doors to the exhibition proper.
Dates and tickets
The exhibition runs from Friday, September 13th, 2019 to Sunday, January 19th, 2020. Lower Belvedere opens daily from 10am to 6pm (9pm on Fridays).
How to get to the Kandl exhibition
Follow the directions for Belvedere. Once you’re inside Lower Belvedere, go on through to the staterooms in the west wing and access to the Orangery is at the end.
Address: Rennweg 6, 1030 Vienna