Of Sensual Intoxication 2016-11-23T14:02:29+00:00

Hans-Peter Wipplinger

OF SENSUAL INTOXICATION

Nudes, portraits, and still lifes make up the central theme of Bianca Regl’s artistic oeuvre with realistic imagery invariably acting as point of departure for her pictorial studies. Whereas some of the artists motives describe the soulscapes of individual protagonists, Regl is less concerned with narration than with painting which evolves for the sake of painting, and in which beauty and aesthetics play an essential role. Shadow and light, movement and stasis, color and form come into play in creating compositions which radiate a highly vivid corporeality.

Committing to no particular subject, Bianca Regl uses this aspect only as an expedient to her painterly analyses. The artist is naturally influenced by our visually and media-defined contemporary culture, so that aesthetic resources of film, photography and printed media are deductible. All the same, her subjective view creates new varieties by combining classical painting with the visual imagery of mass media. Regl singles out details, individuals and moods from the daily flow of imagery, and steers our attention towards what is unique, beautiful, mysterious and sensual. The spectrum of her figurative imagery spans from zeitgeisty representations of youths to the striking color compositions of her still lifes, all the way to isolated landscapes staged sometimes contemplatively, sometimes in dramatic manner. Over the years, the artist processes a handful of themes – swimmers, arrangements of still lifes of fish, or sensually tantalising dessert paintings.

When Bianca Regl places her subjects on the canvas, it is chiefly on blue, gray or – more recently – green, virtually monochrome backgrounds, where the objects or subjects appear to float freely in the foreground. The artist seems to be fascinated by what is incomplete, sketch-like and unfinished in terms of not fully defining her figures or objects.She makes deliberate and blatant omissions, removes body parts, focuses on other details instead, working out every conceivable variation of reflection or distorting their perceived appearance.

Regl trusts that the viewer’s eyes, or specifically their brains, will complete the figure, the object respectively. With precise placement of sometimes pastose and expressive brushstrokes which transports the bodies into a state of isolation, the artist creates an atmosphere in which the figures portrayed denote a certain other-worldliness. As if at the mercy of the viewer, they sit up before us, at times in eccentric, assertive poses and with direct gazes, at times in self-absorbed, introspective attitudes.

The youths Regl usually portrays appear gesticulating, in dislocated postures or lingering statically. Enveloped in a sensory and emotional aura, they appear oddly spaced out and embedded in pools of sensuality. Viewed psychologically, these protagonists are figures of yearning, gazing inwardly, so that the viewer assumes the role of the voyeur, while being provided with very little of the figures character or history. Hence, we can only guess at the event depicted, or at a possible story line, the work dealing primarily with the longings, desires, doubts and the like that arise from the unconscious archives of the human condition.

In her pictorial world, Regl’s contemporaries are thus granted an appearance which – not insignificantly suggested through her unfamiliar color scheme, the contextual exclusion of time and space, and, not least, by unrealistic, formal destruction – seemingly complies with the strict imperative of artificiality. Realistic and pictorial fragments come up against utterly unnatural passages, thereby creating an abstract world in which all tangible circumstances dissolve.

Sociological reflections or classificiations play a minor role in Regls portraits. In the semi-figure of a deeply concentrating man standing in the water, for example, the artist not only seemingly offers insights into his emotional condition, thereby evoking “inner” dimensions such as melancholy, reflectiveness or loneliness. Eliminating immediate surroundings by isolating her figures in spaces devoid of perspective or scenery, Bianca Regl virtually shuts out a social milieu and therewith a sociological context. Her painted subjects appear as mute sculptures, molded by brushstroke rather than chiseled in stone. Despite inherent dynamics, this sculptural appearance imbues them with moments of stillness and meditation.

Above all else, Bianca Regl is concerned with her figures’ or objects’ exteriority. Her first-rate training in painting at the University for Artistic and Industrial Design in Linz, the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, the Ateliers De Beaux-Arts in Paris, as well as the UCLA in Los Angeles, has in recent years allowed her to perfect the genre masterfully. With skillful use of lighting i.e. the complex interplay of light and shadow, and Chiaroscuro, the artist creates dramatic effects and places bodies or objects in an enigmatic atmosphere. Regl offers, nay, positively celebrates the whole spectrum of light, from sun-drenched and blazing to hazy and obscure. By differentiating and contrasting surface and corporeality, and not least by applying intense, sensual color combinations, she achieves subtle nuances accordingly. Regl endows her bodies with vibrant plasticity, simultaneously charging them with forceful resilience. Perhaps it is only via the surface and patina of these subjects, which are devoid of context, that their essence can be experienced.

In her series of dessert paintings, Regl dissects various stages of delectable consumption of juicy red cherries, once again revealing only certain fragments. Here, the virtuosity of her brushwork, the vivid relationship of adjacent colors and the play with light refraction and reflection is likewise skillfully achieved. The artist brushes on the color so loosely and rapidly that the paint running down the canvas stops in its tracks. From the interrelation of object and color, of subject and color field, Regl orchestrates an erotic setting not insignificantly evoked by her choice of detail as well as arousing coloration. By assuming a symbolic function of the image, rather than being used in a realistic sense, color receives a considerable emotional charge. Her often lush, unnatural and unfamiliar arrangements generally evoke a self-sufficiency with erotic-emotive connotations.

In her continually developing series of swimmers, Bianca Regl experiments with subtly distorted bodies. Thus, some details are revealed in painterly expression, while others are depicted as blurry outlines whose surface virtually vibrates. In these paintings, the entirety of a body or face is seldom manifested, on the contrary, Regl’s mastery of fragmentation and concentration on details deals specifically with two-dimensional compositions. Hence, the central question of these pictorial analyses addresses the interplay of supposed reality versus subjective principles of perception including the analysis of different visual phenomena.

Likewise, in the series of (dead) fish, which takes the form of a still life, Regl is not concerned with narration, i.e. with depicted objects and the relaying of symbolically coded messages as was the case in the great period of Natura Morta, but again with the inherent color and form references as independent agents. Rarely has such a seemingly antiquated, traditional genre of painting, as it is represented by still life, been transformed into the present day the way Bianca Regl executes it. The lush and brilliantly colored, yet lightly floating painting undeniably induces a hypnotic and intoxicating effect on the viewer. Besides being vibrant with expressive style and sensuousness, these paintings possess great pictorial density and astonishing intensity. Their highly contrasted lighting quenches our longing for sensuality, do not pretend to represent reality, but, in fact – as through a pictorial filter – give an arm’s length diagnosis of the essence of people and things. Above all, while viewing her work, it becomes evident that Bianca Regl is an apologist of painting for painting’s sake, who, in defying conventional norms of seeing, brings forth a fresh visual reality.