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Might & Masses: Anton Petz exhibits at Reinisch Contemporary
Anton Petz, Boot, 2013.

GRAZ.- Subject and substance. Painting and object. Crowd and individual. Power and powerlessness. Realism and abstraction. The works of Anton Petz move in the empty spaces and transitions between such notions. The Austrian artist’s latest show, MIGHT & MASS, at Reinisch Contemporary, presents a selection of particularly expressive works, some of which have never been exhibited before.

In his current paintings, Petz reflects on impressions of a personal as well as of a mediated nature, ranging from encounters with large crowds in China or the increasingly numbed (and numbing) effect of news images. Slightly blurred, highly colourised depictions of refugees, soldiers and scenes of leisure populate Petz’ large-format canvasses, where – thanks to their reincarnation as painting, the most traditional of art genres – they escape their original banality.

Curator Günther Holler-Schuster about MIGHT & MASSES:

“When we encounter Anton Petz’ work, we discover that it avails itself of a certain realism, renders narrative processes visible and that much of the subject matter is marked by a certain topicality. This topicality is closely connected to the artist’s choice of theme, mostly fuelled by media images. Political events and processes of change in a society dominated by globalisation are of the essence here and constitute a contextual focal point. Mass gatherings of all kinds, from demonstrations to refugee camps to recreational activities enjoyed en-masse, are perceived as a determining element in these, usually large, paintings. Today, these accumulations play out within the subject of his paintings (masses of people), while they used to evolve around their substance (mounds of colour).”

Anton Petz found his artistic voice in the 1980s, in a manifestation of painting propelled by the discourse of postmodernism, which became known as “New Painting”, “Vehement Painting” or the painting of the “Young Wilds”. In this period of the late 1980s, Petz realised that this development would be short and impulsive, but might nevertheless constitute an act of liberation for the next generation of painters. He began to experiment with colour application and image formats. The colour became ever thicker, until it was finally conceived of as substance. The image composition remained partway readable – still lifes, portraits and other classic themes – but also occasionally turned completely abstract. Image formats became ever smaller, so that the ratio between colour application and picture panel was eventually heightened to the extreme. The small paintings, with their massive coats of paint, appear as clumps of colour – as colour objects. From up close, their composition is highly abstract.

It can be noted that Anton Petz’ artistic practice, in all its sensuality and spontaneity – which is, after all, apparent at first glance – still uses an analytical approach. It follows certain paths, which lie in the far past and define painting as a medium. Thus Petz arrives at a consistent continuation and reinterpretation of known phenomena. The means of fathoming a medium are manifold here.

Anton Petz was born in 1962 in Graz, Austria, and lives in Munich, Germany.

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