Anna Maria Brandstätter lives on the banks of a vast river, the Danube. Day in, day out, large amounts of water stream by her house. That is to say, a constant flow, everything is permanently in motion. There is no stagnation, not a single droplet of water will pass by her small sanctuary on the shores of the Danube for a second time.
Feather and India ink are her preferred media of creation in Brandstätter's graphic arts, not to mention her oil paintings. In said paintings, spaces of colour, dynamic, swirling lines flow like waves through the basic tenor of her works. These forms grow, expand, contract and pulsate like a living organism. Light and dark gradients of colour as well as the different nuances of the colour blue create a luminescent effect – we can see how the light is cast upon the multitude of colour. It penetrates the form, gives it transparency and breathes life of an art reality into it.
Ex oriente lux – from the East comes light, as the Romans once said. So is the etymology of the word, 'orientate'. Since time immemorial, one orientates themselves by the stars. However, that which occurs outside, also exists within us. For a long time, that is, until the 17th century the theory of the equality of man and the universe was a held and unquestioned belief until it was refuted by science within the same century. According to this theory,
'each man [would be] a microcosm or, more eloquently put, a world 'en miniature', because in his structure (the anatomical as well as the psychological) repeats in miniature that of the universe. Inversely, the Earth, the stars, the planets and the whole cosmos in their entirety are similar to man; they are huge animals, alive and equipped with a soul as well as organs and extremities.'
At the beginning of the 17th century, the astronomer Johannes Kepler in his essay, 'Harmonices Mundi' (the Harmonies of the World), (1619) compared the Earth with the body of a whale (whose more or less strong breath during his wake and sleep could act as an explanation for the tides).
Every physical entity has a defined external form, a specific, distinctive and individual nature. The objects are constantly transformed. Every plant, every animal, every person continues to shape his or her overall context. This reality is identifiable in all creations of the universe, no matter how big or small, how prominent or mundane the creations of nature are. Thus a piece of driftwood washed ashore by a strong current can become the key to an explanatory model that resides in the studio of an artist.
Let us focus on a detail of that organic flotsam, whereby we recognise delicate structures in it's shape. This is the moment wherein we realise the filigree, abstract detail within the objective form. 'The asceticism in which one relies only on seeing and renounces all knowledge, renews reality.'
Cézanne discovered that the recognised reality does not coincide with the seen reality. He therefore attempted to paint what he really saw through the 'sensationes colorantes' – the sensation of colour. 'and thus he stripped himself of the dogma of knowledge, he subjects himself to the work of the eye and it's evidences.'
The ostensibly self-evident, the existence of the physical objects thus transformed into something unknown, into something that was yet to be discovered and first interpreted. If we were to closer observe the play of waves on a serene lake the grooves on the tips of our fingers or maybe even the growth lines on animal hide, we would notice certain patterns which ultimately indicate the pulsating, the dynamics of the elements, ones own formation and the forming through external factors. In organic natural forms, a rhythmic design often becomes apparent.
Life takes place through a process of continual happening which occurs in waves. Waxing and waning are a bipolar principle akin to breathing in and out, ebb and flow.
Grasping the Present as a Past
Music, literature, performing arts reveal themselves with time. In these genres, the arc of action unravels itself through portrayal over time. A painting or a piece of graphic art should not be considered a static piece, rather full of life and ever-changing. Seeing the temporal qualities in the picture, in the sense of changes and gradients, is part of the big challenges of art appreciation. Consider the words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe as he resonates in Venice in an elegiac mood about the passing of time,
'Goethe in Venice: on St Michael's Day, 29th of September 1786. After becoming tired I sat myself into a gondola, leaving the narrow allies and sailed, admiring the contrast, through the north of the great canal, around the islands of St Clara, into the lagoons, entering the canal of Giudecca, until reaching Marcus Square, and suddenly I was now feeling as though I was one of the lords of the Adriatic Sea, as does every Venetian when he is lying in a gondola. […] and even if their lagoons are filling themselves drop by drop, evil fumes cover their marshes, their trade has weakened, their power has sunk, so the whole compound of the republic and it's essence will not for a moment seem less than venerable to the observer. She [the Marcus Republic] succumbs to time as does everything which has a physical presence.' The Republic of Venice succumbed to time as does everything which one can experience as phenomena. In all physical presences lies an underlying permanent change. This is an especially important topic in the works of Anna Maria Brandstätter.
Traces in the sand, when the sea recedes
Traces in the faces, when the ageing becomes apparent
Traces in the wood, when it gains new rings from year to year
Seamlessly all of this appears to be part of a higher plan. Everything is interwoven. In his song, 'Il viaggio' (the journey) Gian Maria Testa sings: '[…] ma chissà dove il fiume incontra il mare? (But who knows where the river meets the sea?).
Sir Isaac Newton (1642 – 1727) is rumoured to have said 'I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.' Following this metaphor, the works of Anna Maria Brandstätter may be seen as artistically created shells and pebbles, as precious findings, the point of which may be to help us along somewhat with the localisation of our own existence in the vast river of life.
Urban, Martin: Wie der Mensch sich orientiert. Von der Kunst, dem Leben eine Richtung zu geben. Frankfurth/Main, S. 13
Ubaldo, Nicola: Bildatlas der Philosophie. Die abendländische Ideengeschichte in Bildern, Berlin 2007, S. 218
Ebd. S. 28
Boehm, Gottfried: Paul Cézanne. Montagen Sainte Victoire. Frankfurth/Main 1988, S. 27.
Goethe, Italienische Reise. Erste Aufl. Frakfurth/Main und Leipzig 1998, S. 93.
Urban, Martin: Wie der Mensch sich orientiert. Von der Kunst, dem Leben eine Richtung zu geben. Frankfurth/Main, S. 62.