REFLECTION by Franz Türtscher: an invitation to contemplate and absorb
The traditional Christmas gifts in 2021 from foryouandyourcus-
tomers were created by the Austrian artist Franz Türtscher.
The 2021 Christmas pictures designed by Franz Türtscher for foryouandyourcustomers speak for themselves, as he describes it. “The observer is both offered a reflection (or echo) of something and encouraged to reflect deeper. The pictures should be consumed like music – just absorb them without prejudging and wait to see what happens as you look at them.”
Franz Türtscher is a passionate chef. He sees a certain similarity between cooking dishes and painting pictures – painting according to his own created recipes. To achieve a successful result, the individual ingredients have to be planned with care, the steps and processes fully thought-through, so that ultimately a perfectly formed masterpiece can come into being and a feeling of satisfaction can be had, that the final piece will be experienced as something perhaps contradictory and unusual – only then can one experience something new.
The Vienna-based artist accepted a commission from foryouandyourcustomers in September 2020 to design small-format pictures for the company’s traditional Christmas gifts for its clients, employees and friends for the next year. It was a “momentous decision”, as he calls it with a wink. “I undertook the project in stages. Although I wasn’t always specifically working on the paintings, the pictures were being kept at my studio, so the studio was full of these small-format pictures, which pushed me to think about them almost all day and all night. After all, there are lots of little steps that have to take place before a picture is ready to leave the studio. And I had other projects I was working on alongside this one as well.”
The artist describes the work necessary to complete a picture like so: the light-brown wooden bases have a slightly rough, relief-like texture, so multiple layers of primer have to be applied. After each layer, the surface needs to be sanded down until the desired texture is achieved. Then two steps follow, where the picture is built up and developed. Areas are marked out with masking tape, so that the desired compositions in each case are created and then painted. The tape is then removed, which sometimes results in minor defects to the picture that often have to be carefully and painstakingly corrected later.
It is “a special job with special appeal,” even for someone like him, an artist who has been painting, sculpting and creating installations for a very long time now, an artist who has found his own style and continues to evolve. “These pictures only measure 15 by 15 centimetres. They are almost miniatures, so small they might be overlooked. But painting them is such a pleasure, finding excitement in something new, picture by picture.”
And what he found very interesting beyond that “is that my work will later reach an entirely different audience than it would if it were presented in an exhibition, for example. I’m sure many of the people receiving the gifts would not have otherwise been exposed to (my) art, and seeing art in this way might add value or plant a seed for more. The thought of this has been very motivating for me right from the start.”
At the time I was already familiar with foryouandyourcustomers. “Aside from the fact that I have known the curator Sali Oelhafen from the art scene for a long time, I was also honoured to be featured in the company’s 13th exhibition in my home town of Feldkirch. When I was asked about the Christmas gift project, I offered the decision-makers suggestions along my artistic repertoire: from the Linien-Allianzen and Offener Rahmen pieces to my Ornament – Struktur pictures. Ultimately we landed on the Raster collection.”
Türtscher’s work has been significantly shaped by two elements since the early 1980s: the motif of the grid, which is excellently embodied in the contradiction of horizontal and vertical, light and dark, open and defined; and the use of colour in itself – colour as an autonomous quality with all of its many different harmonic and dissonant effects. His paintings and sculptures vary within this system – they imply playful, procedural movement despite strict rules of order. Geometric elements are positioned on the frame like modules in a coordinated system. The image spaces created from this have communicative elements that Türtscher sees as an expansive approach to painting.
More than a year has passed since Franz Türtscher accepted the commission. It is now November 2021 and he is well into the final phase of production. “The last 13 pieces have come onto the boards in no time,” the 68-year-old artist says. Türtscher’s turn of phrase “onto the boards” refers to the work process he came up with especially for this job: three wooden boards with slats serve as a sort of ‘easel’, holding the wooden “canvases” -on which he is working. “This approach allows me to work efficiently in small series consisting of 13 pictures each time,” he explains.
“And it just keeps going: an artistic endeavour is never complete and can only be considered an approximation.”
Despite the great number of pictures he had to create: “Lack of motivation was never an issue. Every new picture, every new series presented a new challenge that always pushed me to find something new. Making so many pictures brought on a dialogue within myself about the creative process. In one series I might prefer a quieter energy, whereas in the next series I might want a louder effect. These differences are expressed, for example, in the interplay and transition from a detailed to a minimalist design language or in the selection of more impactful or calmer colours. It was a constant pulling of the thread, readjusting and recalibrating, and I found it exciting and stimulating even down to the last 13 pictures.”
Franz Türtscher will not reveal how many series, let alone how many pieces, he ultimately will have produced in the end. “The number doesn’t really matter to the owner of one of these pictures. Even if this picture, his picture, were created in a series with other similar works, his picture is still unique, just like every single picture in this and the other series. It stands alone on its own and yet can also be combined and enhanced with many other pictures and understood as the part of a whole. And it just keeps going: an artistic endeavour is never complete and can only be considered an approximation.”