Günther Holler-Schuster

Of course, the important decisions on painting have already been taken a long time ago. Figuration and Abstraction have been successfully separated – but at the latest since Gerhard Richter they no longer exclude each other. The fact that the act of painting includes drama that can range from performance to actionism was implemented at the latest by Action Painting. Minimal Art recognized that a painting is after all also an object and Pop Art varied the details. The fact that an image created in another medium can also be absorbed again into the context of painting by making it into the motif itself is also an established strategy. From Pop Art via Gerhard Richter to the innumerable painted photos and media images within contemporary realistic painting, this has become a matter of course. Even the fact that the term “painting” no longer only refers to an image that was produced using traditional means (methods and materials) is not new. Following the avant garde, you no longer have to pick up a brush to speak about a painting. You could say that painting has dissolved into or through the construction of modernity. So why paint – to re-invent the wheel?

Painting not only continues today in particular for economic reasons. Painting represents an amazing variety and is constantly developing new opportunities and opens up new access to human perception. Without doubt the aspects stated above form a coarse net which covers an area. But after all of these heroic efforts to explain the detail, it does however require the intermediate tones that make the nets mesh smaller. Facets unexpressed to date are now stated or reformulated from the current perspective, resulting in new perceptions.

Bianca Regl paints very simple, virtually inconspicuous motifs. People, male and female friends in casual poses whose combination appears familiar. She paints objects, everyday items, fish with shiny scales, various pastries with the associated cutlery in a very refined, striking technique. In addition to vision, the sense of taste is also challenged. All in all it is a vocabulary of a collective consciousness whose cliché nature also reflects codes for individual desires. Paradoxically intimacy can only be experienced at a distance and this is evidence of the artists interest and ability to see what has been consumed in a new way. This represents one of the strengths of painting as a medium – a fact that can be traced back for centuries and appears to still be valid today. The image increases the nature of the reality. It makes everyday matters particularily worth mentioning – or even worth mentioning at all. Since there has been and is a hierarchy within the visual arts that still appears to exist, painting along with sculpture are still at the top – consciously or unconsciously. Therefore painting is the best medium for providing this increase in existence. You could dispute whether especially these days film and mass media have taken over this function. What is not seen in the media does not exist. This depiction is only comparable to a limited extent with painting as painting in this regard does not refer to basic existence. Of course the image shown in the media is also associated with a certain added value. But this mainly belongs to the realm of distribution and does not contribute to the same extent to quasi-cultural improvement as is still possible for painting to do today.

You could conclude that what is not painted has little cultural importance. This sounds very elitist and traditional but can be clarified using an example: a collection of fresh strawberries (in Bianca Regl’s painting they are raspberries and cherries) in an artistically woven basket becomes a specialism as a result of still life painting (for example by Jean Simeon Chardin) and is even given a deeper importance. The strawberries have become a picture and therefore the epitome of an inconspicious yet striking atmosphere. If the container with the fruit has been given a certain delicacy in the artistry you can no longer ignore the special added value it gains. Such a process appears to withdraw from the discussion on wether it comes within a development of the avant garde or should be placed in the next higher level. To come back to the strawberries, these days you can show them in various depictions. This ranges from a photo to an advertising image for a department store chain that offers particularily fresh fruit and comes as close as possible to the natural process. Therefore as a matter of consistency there is also a space for the painted image – both then (classic still life painting) and now (new figurative painting). This kind of painting which is currently practised – Bianca Regl is an eminent ambassador – is mainly based on the fact that she builds on existing images and image presentations. Media reflexivity is a key word here. However, it is increasingly recommended to utilise the complete history of the image as a phenomenon to assess the contemporary. In the awareness of this long development, the strawberries painted today become special again. If in classic still life painting they had a completely different social content and therefore also a different artistic motivation in mind they are still worth of depiction today. The social dimension is apparently what makes them special. Today it is not the case that people can not afford even exotic fruit – can not access them. This speaks of their banality and allows the motif to appear incidential. But it is not possible to ignore the sensuousness and the pleasurable desire that after all exudes from them as image motifs. Painting as a medium – which was celebrated in the 1980s – links to these hedonistic components. Paintings are still able to be experienced more sensuously and are associated with greater exclusivity than other methods of producing images. This fact appears to be valid in spite of all the theories and references to modernity.

As a result of its treatment of everyday trivialities, Pop Art has combined the two in one. On the one hand there was the critical claim with regard to making the aesthetics of goods into fetishes, on the other it also took into account the fact that the cliché includes authentic essential components that, when separated from their manipulative function, make the cliché appear original. The trivial beauty and cliché challenges the claim to desire and at the same time gives it space. This claim to desire has its origins in cannibalistic drives that are apparently permitted by a sublimination process within the artistic depiction. This sublimination process is one of the key aspects of the increase in existence mentioned above as a result of the artistic or painted depiction. Bianca Regl must no longer primarily exert herself for criticism of the manipulative character of triviality and the shine on the surface.

This exists as a sheen in the background and exists both in her consciousness and in that of the viewer. Today it is of course impossible to view and experience any work without having had the experience of other works. It is equally not possible to paint without having had the experience of concept art or as a consequence having experienced various media images. “We see painting differently since film and video” (David Reed). As with most artists of her generation Bianca Regl consciously exposes herself to many images – whether they are media images or private photos – and tries to filter them through her painting. A painting exhibition therefore becomes a soft contract to the increased flood of stimuli to which we are exposed on a daily basis. Compared to cinema, video rental store, magazine or even television, a painting exhibition is fundamentally a location where little happens – you bring along your own pictures that you always carry in you. Painting learned a great deal from technical media a long time ago. If you accept that it was the technical media that produced that status of modernity in which the surface of the world is identical with an artistic continuum you certainly have to claim that this is the case for painting – or even demand it of painting. Only then does freely gliding over the visible or what is made visible that can solidify at any point on an image start.

Bianca Regl combines an apparently carefree way of handling the encountered world, finally dipping it in an atmospheric light, challenging the additional effect on existence and leading the viewer astray using virtuous technique in an amazing way. Of course it is artificial reality that she sets up for us. She also appeals to the inescapable nature of the scene that is established on a painting. Baudrillard states that images in the media have become more powerful and real than they are in reality. Therefore Bianca Regls paintings of fish, fruit and people in a swimming pool gain a new dimension that is co-founded in the type of depiction and the virtuous treatment of the material. A long time before the media-critical discourse of recent years, Marcel Proust insisted that the size of a work is based not on the apparent qualities of its materials but rather exclusively on its elaborateness and that virtually anything can be the subject of a work of art.