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Nitsch, Hermann

Hermann Nitsch Schüttbild 2007


1938 Vienna - 2022 Mistelbach/Lower Austria

Splatter Painting
verso: "hermann nitsch 07"
acrylic on canvas
39¼×31½ in

The act of painting as a celebration of vitality, an orgy, a bacchanal, a pleasantly unrestrained frenzy, freed from the shackles of modern civilization, uninhibited and direct. Hermann Nitsch wrote art history with his progressive splatter paintings.

Nitsch was fascinated by religion, the ritual and ceremonial, and the primitive, primeval roots of religious practice. Another passion was philosophy, especially the works of Schopenhauer, Heidegger, and Nietzsche. His interest in Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis and the theory of the unconscious combined with an enthusiasm for the impulsiveness of Art Informel.

As significant as these numerous influences were for Hermann Nitsch’s innovative and multi-layered oeuvre, one concept stood above all: „intensity.“ His art, as Nitsch never tired of emphasizing, always had to live up to the claim of intensity. Hence the choice of the color red – no other color triggers such a strong reaction; red gets our instinctive attention. With his splatter paintings, Hermann Nitsch took the techniques of action painting to the extreme. Even more so than Jackson Pollock’s drip painting process, Nitsch’s actionist painting process is about relinquishing control in favor of an almost fateful process, comparable to the thrown bones of an ancient oracle. The picture surface shows „exemplarily the visual grammar of the Orgy.Mystery.Theater“. The powerful act of pouring was followed by the artist’s direct, gestural intervention: Nitsch finalized the painting with his bare hands, with which he spread the generously applied, dripping and running paint. The resulting groove-like traces of his fingers are an essential design element and lend structure to the paint; at the same time, it is an uncommonly direct, almost archaic form of signature.

Hermann Nitsch, born in Vienna in 1938, was long considered the „enfant terrible“ of the Austrian art scene. Today, his significant role as the initiator of Viennese Actionism – together with Guenter Brus, Otto Muehl and Rudolf Schwarzkogler – is undisputed in the international art scene.