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Thomas Reinhold – Empirical Science

Category: Portrait 9. April 2008

As opposed to other media like film or music, in principle, painting does not lend itself to as many possibilities, explains the painter, Thomas Reinhold. Throughout history, there have been painters who have tried to expand the range of the medium of painting time and time again. Take the case of Viennese Actionism, for which action painting or happenings—for example, fluxus art is not meant to extend the possibilities of the painting—always become something else instead.

In the mid-seventies, Thomas Reinhold studied at the University for Applied Art in Vienna, when Actionism was still determining the current artistic climate. For many, the medium of painting was still not performative enough, hence, it only held a small part in the curriculum as opposed to other media. Reinhold was doing photography at the time. His work was successful—shown at the Graz Forum City Park as well as in art fairs in Basel and New York.

Thomas Reinhold calls his eventual path to painting a reaction to the artistic tenor of this time, against which he consciously set out a counterpoint, as well as against the master-class system of the university, within which young artists would always work in exactly the same manner as their teachers. Reinhold began with figurative painting. For “Odysseus”, a work from 1981, he painted himself—naked, a sword in hand, in the front of a portico. Before him is a forge, in the background, a futuristically cubist-like figure: his alter ego. The painter describes these compositions as a form of “iconographic complexity”. At this time, his painting was already formal and had become less prone to explanation—the way in which he then, within a few years, already made himself known. His following work developed into a purely painterly reflection: for him painting became an empirical act, an attempt to understand what the possibilities of painting are.

Thomas Reinhold paints in order to explore and discover. The multitude of possibilities that exist for transforming the many layers of color that act as signs of the temporality of the act of painting into an experience of spatial depth, occupies him just as much as the facets of perception that are related to the anatomy of the human eye. In addition, in the last few years, he has been experimenting with the independence of materials. The flow of the paint becomes the painterly means: Reinhold tests their fluidity against the background of precisely calculated pictorial compositions. His search for the natural courses of flowing colors forces them into a reduction. Diversions which could normally distract from the nature of the material fall away. In this way, this researcher experiences what the pictorial material brings out of his own paintings. The flowing colors cannot always be guided, sometimes, they must go their own way. The use of fluid colors under the laboratory conditions of the composition can lead to its fair share of smaller or larger disasters. Reinhold does not exactly paint according to the tenets of Actionism, but he does integrate actionistic dimensions of his materials into his painting. As a result, he has successfully expanded the medium of painting—which in principle has very few possibilities—in a different way than what was possible in the Actionism of the 70s. The medium remains intact—without having to develop into something else. (wh/jn)

Works of the artist are on display at the exhibition "Painting: Process and Expansion" from July 9th till October 3rd 2010 at the MUMOK (Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig) in Vienna. Opening: July 8th, 7pm.

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