Klaus Mosettig



Hofstätter Projekte presents a selection of works from Klaus Mosettig’s last three extensive series: In addition to examples of ‘Self-portraits’ and the ‘Withdrawal’-series, two drawings from his most recent series ‘Informel’ are shown. These works share an art historical framework, which spans a period from the early renaissance to the present.
Hofstätter Projekte’s theme ‘All Art has been Contemporary’ by Maurizio Nannucci is widely immanent in Mosettig’s complex body of work.

Mosettig’s drawings are – regardless of their content – abstract in their core because of the chosen process of transmitting photographic imagery. The motives become entirely meaningless for the duration of the repetitive process of translating them into drawing, whilst the artist mechanically sets line after line concentrating on every minute detail of the projected image. When tonal values are depicted onto paper, very small bundles of drawn lines resume the function of grid elements used by mechanical reproduction methods. Thus, the producers’ individuality recedes behind the concept. Discipline, precision and concentration replace idiosyncrasy and personal expression. However, other, new formal aesthetic qualities are created in the process of transformation.

The artist radically reduces visual means. He does so by restricting to drawing, using solemnly graphite pencils of different grades, a single shaping element (line from bottom left to top right), no colour and so on. At the same time he pays meticulous attention to detail a well as to scale realism. These elements do not only aim at media-analytical purposes. Rather, it is an inquiry into the process of seeing and perceiving, which artists such as Chuck Close have dealt with in different, yet related ways. In addition, the disclosure and transparency of the drawing technique entails its demystification and the disenchantment of the artist’s beloved virtuosity. Keeping the entire process in mind, one realizes that it is a systematic repartition of a virtual afterimage, which – starting from the border of the image – then materializes into a new work of art.

Questions of the interrelationship between photography, copy, original and reproduction, or questions of status as well as definition of an artwork, that are thereby raised act as a constant in the artists work, connecting all his different approaches. These issues first addressed by Walter Benjamin in his famous essay of the 1930s and followed by Theodor Adorno’s antithesis are still relevant today. While Benjamin alleges the loss of the artwork’s aura in the age of mechanical reproduction, Adorno insists on its aura and autonomy, not be confused with formalism, however. Since 2007 Mosettig has created drawings exclusively on the basis of projected photographic material. Nevertheless it would be a misinterpretation to therefore understand his work as ‘ironic yet also critical hymn to the author’s death and the end of the authentic work of art’. Precisely because he invariably uses a reproduction process that is both technical as well as a virtual, his provocative intent becomes obvious: to formulate an antithesis, to proof that there is a possibility of the assertion of the artwork’s aura – particularly in the age of mechanical reproduction. Idiosyncrasy, materiality and contextuality to a lifetime counteract the anonymity, virtuality and volatility of the industrial process.

Despite Mosettig’s conceptual approach, his fundamental artistic concern is the medium of drawing. To him it is more than the obviously stupendous mastery of the medium and the technical capability. It is to be understood as an excess in Adorno’s sense who demands autonomy resulting from the work’s actual material (truth) as well as resistance against prevailing conditions. This resistance is not meant as a critique of social conditions, but rather as an aesthetic sublimation: ‘In their movement towards truth artworks are in need of that concept which they keep at a distance for the sake of their truth.’ (Adorno) In this sense Mosettig’s work convinces not only from a formal aesthetic point of view but also always raises fundamental questions of art.

Self-portraits, Withdrawal, Informel

In his ‘Self-portraits’ Mosettig examines and compares Great Master drawings. To do so, he uses their works as templates, understanding them as ‘available’ objects and ‘applies’ them onto the image carrier. Thus the original’s drawing’s background becomes part of the image and is consequently treated with equal attention. Different drawing instruments, personal touch and academic methods to capture body and space are depicted just as dirt, smears or paper-structures are – as if under a magnifying glass. The reflection of the motives highlights the difference between one’s own view of self in the mirror and the perception from outside. It further addresses the fascination emanating from artists’ self-portraits and the narcissism of some artist as well as the self as an object of study that is always available.

After his extensive series of Jackson Pollock’s ‘Drippings’ – which are considered to be the epitome of unrepeatable, spontaneous unique artworks and actions – Mosettig has dedicated an entire series to Pollock’s antipode, Josef Albers and his series ‘Homage to the Square’, which Mosettig named ‘Withdrawal’. What fascinates Mosettig with Albers modernist key works is the systematic investigation of a formal issue, in this particular case the connection between quantity, quality and spacial effects of colour, and at last the aesthetic result of ‘removing’ one of the work’s constituent elements: colour.

Mosettig devotes his most recent series ‘Informel’ to the free line. In its initial form, it is found in a child’s scribbles. These lines are spontaneous, deliberate creations, if not unconditional propositions. They arise from the basic instinct for expression, the desire to leave behind visible traces and thus to assert oneself of ones own existence. Furthermore, it is also about the act of taking possession, in this case of a surface, be it with minimal symbolic signatures or surface-filling shapes. At this point the infantile and artistic intention meet, at least in those currents of painting that strive for the most direct and unspoiled ways of expression. With these intentions, which are roughly subsumed under the name ‘Informel’, the surface of the image as well as its composition become inevitably secondary, or receive a new meaning. In the series ‘Withdrawal’ the background is entirely dispelled, while it is treated as equal (to the artist’s creation) in the ‘Self-portrait’-series. Now it forms a large, clear stage for the free development of the line. The affinity for pictorial creations such as Cy Twombly’s is obvious. Mosettig’s ambivalent attitude to the phenomenon of spontaneity, between fascination and distrust, becomes obvious as well.

Edelbert Köb