Johanna Kandl

Material. What We Paint with and Why

Images tell stories. They do so not only via form and content but also through their pure, innate materiality. Painting tools and the medium of colour, their origins, and the way they are obtained often convey compelling stories in parallel to the picture’s subject matter. Austrian artist Johanna Kandl focuses on this content layer by juxtaposing the basic materials used in painting with her own works as well as numerous paintings from the Belvedere Collection.


Curatorial assistence: Miroslav Halak


In cooperation with

The Exhibition

Johanna Kandl
© H.& J. Kandl, 2018

In this exhibition, Johanna Kandl examines the physicality of artworks. She’s not interested in the science of materials per se, rather, she sheds light on a current topic referred to in recent years by the scientific community as the ‘material turn’. The new-found appreciation of analogue materials can be seen as a paradigm shift in the age of digitalization. This research strategy analyses the significance of material in society. Kandl has been researching this topic for several years, travelling to the places of origin of the substances in question, such as to the island of Hormus, the Sudan, Sumatra, and Slovakia. Under this approach wider issues are raised, like the economic sustainability for the inhabitants of affected regions of materials such as resin- and rubber-producing plants (or gum arabic in the Sudan). Problematic environmental consequences are also raised with regard to mining and the conflicts between activists and global mining companies involved in pigment production. In the exhibition, the artist’s works and paintings from the Belvedere Collection are in dialogue with minerals, pigment samples, specimens, archive material, and Kandl’s own photographs, film contributions, and notes from many years of research. The result is a narrative that oscillates between objective documentation and personal fiction. The artist brings to the exhibition her detached scientific view, but also imbues it with her emotionally underpinned personal connection to the subject, rooted in her family background of paint producers and dealers, as well as her training as a conservator. Together with her husband, Helmut Kandl, she explores the stories behind the bodily nature of art, while also uncovering urgent social questions. 

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Exhibited Artworks