Rainer Spangl’s paintings are fresh for their lettered material sensibility in both oil and watercolor and because they address conceptions of traditional paintings within the framework of current practice. In his exhibition Blätter und Kammern at Song Song in Vienna, Spangl selected thirteen paintings ranging in scale from one and a half meters high to 30 cm high, fluctuating between oil on canvas and watercolor on panel.
In watercolor, Spangl assumes a direct observational garden painting system. His sincerity and craftsmanship are evidenced in the soft ivory surfaces of his wood panels. Primed with traditional chalk ground, Spangl paints atmospheric washes of blues and yellows and upon these, depictions of trees, bushes, and plants. Though there are no figures in Spangl’s intimate landscapes, his watercolor pieces carry a liking to post-impressionism’s use of gardens as metaphors for transcendent possibility.
Working with oil paint on canvas, Spangl’s style is indirect. His canvases vary in size each covered by a unique monochrome of color. On top of these color fields, Spangl illustrates scenes and objects composed of distinct marks, painted-in long and short strokes, also having a singular hue. The effect of the limited color interactions is striking. Likewise, Spangl’s choice of subject matter is equally bold. The scope of his renderings range from a harbor view on the Cote D’Azure, to a monastery’s library’s 17th century Venetian globe, to a preserved 16th century whale horn believed to be that of a unicorn. In his way, Spangl takes on one of today’s most difficult positions, that of confronting conceptions of leisure, the everyday and the role of relics.
The combination of Spangl’s garden watercolor paintings and his op-oil paintings together address not only their subjects, but also the history of western painting. In that they are paintings, Spangl smartly shoulders credit for that which is in each piece from painting to painting. There is no accompanying manifesto for there is no need. They are, each one, knowingly painted on beauty and knowingly institutionally critical.
Song Song, Praterstrasse 11, 1020, Vienna Austria
September 3 – October 9, 2010
– Ezara Spangl