günther selichar

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find the difference 1

from: Suchbilder (Find the difference) – Paintings and Media Works, 1991/93

each ink-jet-print/canvas, 90 x 160 cm, double acrylic glass filled with color pigment, 90 x 230 cm
Installation Photography after Photography, Kunsthalle Krems (A) 1996
Collection Nö. Landesmuseum, St. Pölten (A) (center piece)

Photo: G. Selichar, Wien

Uli Bohnen

In medias res, descriptively (I): The Austrian artist Günther Selichar confronts us with nine groups of images consisting of two parts each. One of these two parts we would spontaneously define as the representation of a landscape, the other as a non-representational object. Although the landscapes appear naturalistic, they can, as long as they are presented in an exhibition space, hardly be related to any particular natural scene. The non-representative objects, obviously aiming at some correspondence to the landscapes, are flat containers consisting of double-stayed plexiglass sheets. They are filled with pure blue, red and green pigment appearing in horizontal stripes.
In order to come to an analytical understanding of this group of works by Günter Selichar, we need to take a look at its technical composition. Color pigments are the basic material used by paint-ers. If a painter buys paints in tubes, he saves himself the first step of making paints and can, without further ado, begin to work with a ready mixture of such pigments and some solvent – oil, for instance. When Selichar fills transparent containers with pure pigment, his aim is to arrive at an elementary state of color. Without actually painting, he is evoking a precondition of painting, and he does it in a way or in an arrangement reminiscent not only of the basic elements of painting but also of an advanced execution of the act of painting.

On first sight, the landscape pieces corresponding to the filled plexi-glass containers may appear to the uninformed as dextrously executed paintings. Although this would be an illusion, it would not be too far off the truth: Selichar seems to have created this impression intentionally. Otherwise he would not have transferred these landscape pieces on a conventional surface for painting: canvas on stretcher frames. The production process of the image relates to the textile surface in the same way as Mexican baroque churches relate to their pre-Columbian foundations: Two wideley differing eras meeting in one place, consequent to a forceful (artistic) intervention. The landscape that seems so easily identifyable as a depiction of nature on an apparently appropriate canvas is the result of a translation in several steps, partly digital, in the course of which the correspondence of the resulting image with the “natural” motif is, in large measure, subject to the arbitrary manipulations of various medial stages. (Magazine) reproductions of landscape photographs can be digitized – fed into a computer – and then modified ad lib, before transferring them, with an ink-jet printer, on a suitable surface. Large-format commercial posters (with a painterly appeal) of smoking Cowboys before phantastic panoramas no-one has ever seen in real life are made that way – and so are Selichar’s landscapes.
In Selichar’s work, this thought finds its continuation in his representations of landscapes that correspond, in a somehow complementary way, to the plexi-glass objects, even though this contin-uation takes a new direction. We are thinking of Selichar’s subtitle “Paintings and Media Works”. What object is, in what sense, “media work”, and what is, in what sense, “painting”?
There is something similar in the landscape images chosen by Selichar: They may be regarded as beautiful, and on first sight they may look like painted. A second look reveals that we are deal-ing with some kind of mechanical reproduction. There is, in fact, a connection to the concept of photo realism, but the Austrian artist takes this concept further by leaving the manufacture of the end product to a mechanical process after having digitized and perhaps manipulated the motif, which is itself a photographic or printed reproduction. In other words: We are confronted with an image that has passed through several medial translations and is thus highly synthetic, having very little to do with nature, even though our inclination to recognize reality in an image might lead us to believe the opposite. If we add that meanwhile even nature, as explained above, has little to do with itself, ekeing out a bare existence in a state of progressive self-alienation, we are justified in defining Selichar’s pigment-filled plexi-glass containers as concrete, and his ink-jet prints, although they “represent” something, as abstract.

from: Uli Bohnen, Between and Across the Media, Naturally!, in: Uli Bohnen, Christoph Doswald, Walter Seitter: Günther Selichar. Suchbilder (Salzburg und València, 1993|94).