Stefan Sandner 

Touching the shapeless
On Stefan Sandner’s paintings

What kind of painting corresponds to the times we are living in, to our desire for a “creative“ blurring of all contexts? What really touches us in this era of shapelessness? What kind of images can “capture” all of that?

Stefan Sandner applies several levers when analysing painting and its history. Consisting of scribbles, notes and playing with the codes of a paintbrush, colour application and shape of the canvas as well as using gestural tokens, his pieces discuss essential pathos formulae of the history of painting. Especially in the “supreme discipline“ painting, categories such as authorship, subjectification, expression, and representation keep emerging – from a pre-modern as well as reflective point of view. In the spirit of modernity and the subsequent discourses, Sandner operates with questions in order to analyse his own function. During this process, the so-called opponents of a self-critical view on art turn out to be fierce adversaries, who, after being brought to their knees, get up again and are refilled with aura. Therefore, in the spirit of a “die harder“, there is always enough material for further reflection, fight scenes and meta-paintings that carry on “posing a problem to one selves” when it comes to basic aesthetic concepts.

Sandner’s laconic notes that are partly reminiscent of messages or comments that someone left on notepads, as well as his juxtapositions of words that deal with historic works of art or emotional conditions, also always comment on the circumstances of reproduction or the works’ surroundings and the social context of their origin respectively.
By addressing the spectators also as readers, he celebrates a skillful play with irony and wit, in which the perception of the painting itself appears in a seemingly secondary role.
The enormous scale of the canvases that follows the tradition of important 19th century historical paintings represents an absurd contrast to the vanity of the information given and the use of scribbles to mark it and write it down. The writing tool is a paint brush and by using watery acrylic paint Sandner often leaves drip marks that are part of the rhetoric vocabulary and the pathos of abstract painting.
Sandner deprives painting of its major role while skillfully celebrating it through determined artistic tricks, affects and codes. With these contradictory approaches Sandner involves the spectators in a game that leaves them astonished by a “double bind“ between attraction and rejection, shape, and shapelessness.

Text: Cosima Rainer
Translation: Christina Muigg
photos: Verena Nagl