• Franz Ehmann, "Many Things (it's a colourful world)", Spiro|Grace Art Rooms, Installation view, 2014.

  • Franz Ehmann, "Many Things (it's a colourful world)", Spiro|Grace Art Rooms, Installation view, 2014.

  • Franz Ehmann, "Many Things (it's a colourful world)", Spiro|Grace Art Rooms, Installation view, 2014.

  • Franz Ehmann, "Many Things (it's a colourful world)", Spiro|Grace Art Rooms, Installationview, 2014.

  • Franz Ehmann, "Many Things (it's a colourful world)", Spiro|Grace Art Rooms, Installation view, 2014.

  • Franz Ehmann, "Many Things (it's a colourful world)", Spiro|Grace Art Rooms, Installation view, 2014.

Artist Talk (view here)

Franz Ehmann: The Materiality of an Artistic Existence.

Published Wednesday 18 March 2015, Franz Ehmann (edited by Simon Marsh).

you question yourself as an artist not just question what an institution does or an individual gallery does…the question remains…

how precise can i operate as an artist to bring some sort of action into a defined space and then use that for…

doing…

undoing…

redoing…

and then revisit the entire scenario because the works can be exhibited in hundreds of different ways…my concerns are constantly with the art object becoming too static…too fixed…very often i start to think that a lot of artworks have then that prescribed feeling to them or that the entire interaction has to be on a certain level…there seems a certain stuckness to them and i think that this static nature of the gallery space has to be approached in a different way…i see this all the time in shows…

Franz Ehmann, “Yield”, shirt pigment, beeswax on beeswax blocks, 40 x 30 x 32cm, 2014.

old museums are sometimes wonderful to look at however when you go in there a few times you know where the Rubens hangs you know where the Velazquez hangs…it is simply the same thing…sometimes the reaction to the art work becomes so prescribed…so predictable…there is no other reaction possible…there is no other reading possible and the only possible psychological aspect of you as the viewer is that there is only one view and nothing other than the way it has been presented….

for myself art has become…the total collapse of everything into one and the same…text is no different from the wax work…it’s the same thing….for a long time i’ve perceived sculpture in this way with respect to a photograph…they are essentially the same thing…there is no difference anymore…

i have always just assumed that everything is art whatever i do is art…there is no difference…

it’s a bit odd that we live in the 21st century where we have a huge amount of access to culture in any media platform and yet in a cultural sense we are still dealing with the white box…

we seemingly are still trying to revisit probably what began with the salon style exhibitions of the 18th century and reinvigorating the same old model…

Franz-Ehmann

Franz Ehmann, “Maximum Acceleration 2”, photographed 2010, mounted on aluminum, edition of 5, 90 x 60cm, printed 2014.

in part…due to this…for instance in a photo show you don’t want to have anything other than photographs in it and yet this is so freaking crazy because what we have in reality…what you have photographed is totally different to what you place on a wall and then you’re so anal about it to only allow this to happen…this is so crazy and yet this happens all the time…not just with photography…it happens with paintings in the same way…a certain genre will be seen to not fit and thereby becomes excluded when in reality this is just totally insane because the value in cultural terms is by total diversification not by a representation of a static sameness…

first of all i’m a trained chef as well an artist and out of this comes a huge amount of tactility for the materials i use…this is predominantly why i use them…not because there are other important artists working with them…for instance Joseph Beuys with the Honey Pump or Manzoni with the eggshells on canvas…

we could look at my work through a prism of historical artistic output however when i first started out doing this i was in a way thinking like a student coming out of college…needless to say I largely discarded a huge amount of this way of thinking from my work and started to align it with my ‘other’ profession….aligning it with what came out of my cooking…

i have always used written text in my work…it is fragmented…sometimes i just start to think about certain things like the WishList and begin with a premise that everyone writes on postcards…such as “wish you were here”…or things similar to that and i’m thinking well let’s just start to write line after line after which I begin to give it some form…some cohesive shape…following this i then begin the process of actively pursuing how long can i possibly sustain this…that is sort of what happens but it’s also about the repetitive action…

Franz-Ehmann

Franz Ehmann, “Many Things (it’s a colourful world)”, installation view, first week, Spiro|Grace Art Rooms, 2014.

because we are getting toward a better way of communication…this thing could have been said differently…you could just write for example…i wish i was…and there it is…

all in one…

this is similar to a perfect sentence I found in James Joyce’s Ulysses “pain that is not yet the pain of love fretted his heart”…and there is the book…it’s there…it hits you…

you know that that’s the book…

as we know…with language the intention caused by choosing punctuation or alternate words…changes the aspect of meaning…

of what you are communicating…

and yes there are certain things that i’m aware of…for instance other writers who have written extensively on their own writing…they are now writing one sentence…one paragraph sentences and that is the book…

i am constantly thinking…how far can I take these words to an edge before they start to seep away and potentially lose their power…

with the newspaper pieces i guess i began seeing the page as holding a dollar value and wanted to incorporate this in my works…a mass of words that are hardly ever read…

it’s kind of paradoxical that when you begin working with newspaper you become aware that when everything is laid out on the floor…in a way how everything is totally formatted…you can’t help but realise that this layout gives you an understanding of how much value that this space commands…it’s really an alternate form of money…that’s all it is…it’s not information…it’s money….how much money can i print now into this space…you can see how manipulated all of this space is…and i find that so intriguing that when we have it in the hand…it becomes identifiable…this essentially programmed way of doing things…(1)

Franz-Ehmann

Franz Ehmann, “Blown”, Newspaper on wire, 50 x 50 x 230cm, 2014.

the current show that i’ve put together is titled Many Things (it’s a colourful world)…

in the past i’ve used a few other titles that i think are a bit humorous like Words that Change the World and Influence the Weather…

in a way it’s simply referring to a flipping over of this to the current title and so it’s almost saying the same thing…while its pointing to specific locations and atmospheres in the photographic works and atmospheres or really the environment we are encountering now in the art world…essentially it is colourful and a world in which many things are going in different directions…the many cues that are in existence that lead toward the inspiration of my art practise…

in a way there exists a stimulus that comes from that sixties art movement minimalism…and while things are reduced to certain materials as i use them then shaped into geometric patterns or very strict boxes…cubes…and so on…i think i still acknowledge the hand made aspect to it…or the fabrication through machines…but still…it is the human intervention that remains evident throughout all of my works…

Franz-Ehmann

Franz Ehmann, “Many Things (it’s a colourful world)”, installation view, second week, Spiro|Grace Art Rooms, 2014.

i respond to this kind of thing for example I use beeswax so therefore it’s a natural material that i use…but at the same time you still have to harvest beeswax from the bees…then there’s a huge production involved which is then the extraction of the wax…

heat…

energy…

the machinery…

the processes of cooling…once extracted…until you get a block of beeswax which i use in the fabrication…and i think that sometimes there exists a recognised juxtaposition of these elements such as utilising them in a way that evokes simply bricks stacked in a row…

possibly building blocks…

the sliding over of the one onto the other to formulate the foundations of a structure…accumulated beeswax bricks…presented in stacks or formations…they are quite versatile in that i don’t just utilise this particular format of presentation…

i keep changing constantly what i’m actually looking for out of these kind of minimal reductive elements…

yes i think for many years i’ve been working with the precept that less is more and yet there exists a distinct possibility that throughout this reductionism the more has won out…and while i am aware that in a way it seems totally ironic to say this…however the more you work with the same or with the less…the more less you have to use…

Franz-Ehmann

Franz Ehmann, “Many Things (it’s a colourful world)”, installation view, third week, Spiro|Grace Art Rooms, 2014.

exhibiting is really about being present within the gallery space and in a sense the placement of objects becomes quite complex…to the point where many people don’t get what it is you are doing…this is evidently not a reflection on the people who don’t quite get it…

you know people of course respond in different ways to these kind of accumulated pieces…i find many people respond favourably to the beeswax and the text pieces…i guess you could say the almost remnant pieces such as the waxed shirts…the waxed leaves and many of the wax objects i present…maybe it’s due to being observed as simply part of everyday life that a lot of people react favourably to these items…their not huge or demanding…

possibly it’s due to them having the right dimensions that the viewer can simply comprehend them without having to think or judge too much about what it actually is that they are encountering…

Mondrian of course was a completely fascinating artist in that he used the entire space and yet a lot of his works somehow don’t seem finished…i’ve seen a lot of his works and when you directly look at the surface you realise that there exists a huge amount of reworking throughout the ground of his pieces and observe how he simply shifted one line to another to arrive at a kind of empty space…instead of a negative and positive space…

on reflection i think that everything amounted to a kind of emptiness and that is more getting to the point of what i respond to…the dignity in this emptiness and this silence that comes from that space…

Franz-Ehmann

Franz Ehmann, “Word Storm”, permanent marker, oil stick and varnish on canvas, 51 x 61cm, 2014.

referring to a silence in an artwork when everything else is screaming is the intensity that i’m really after in certain works of my own such as the text pieces…

while you can read and you can comprehend getting emotional about words…the referral to it is what i see as a dignified silence that imparts that whilst there are lines…

colours and edges that amount to a small window that you have in front of you…the methodological import then becomes the ‘how’ of our response to the piece by referring to it in this form of silence rather than shoehorning it into some kind of historical stylistic approach…

in literature i always read the modernist writers such as Beckett or for example Thomas Bernhard who are always on about capturing and imparting an experience of the end game…though the question remains…how can i work with this concept…this kind of existential aspect and what does that then infer to the overall value of our existence…

producing artworks in this manner you question the value in this kind of endism so to speak…you know it’s never there…realistically you constantly have to construct some form of communicational dialogue in a search for how we can possibly utilise this space or this sphere to culturally instil these concepts into ‘place’ and of course an audience who simply may not be aware of what it is you are referring to in the first place…

these very minute literal changes carry with them a certain form of irony and dark humour…not to mention a complete feeling of the absolute absurd…

but then that’s life…

you know things take place…

situations happen…

there exists a constant state of change and of course things and situations evolve toward even more of an absoluteness surrounding a dark absurdity…and then there is my art work that demands a conceptual framework to simply exist…

needless to say i’m constantly thinking within these frames of reference…

Franz-Ehmann

Franz Ehmann, “Wishlist”, permanent marker on Belgian linen, Spiro|Grace Art Rooms, third week exhibition iteration.

the processes go through certain stages of discovery such as me simply sitting down to write and quite often they are just words…i often become completely fascinated by just one word…

now if i start to expand it following a certain trajectory then i can start to structure the meaning of what it is i am writing about whilst being constantly aware of the burnt out meanings…meanings that have been overly used that can begin to accommodate themselves within an accumulated…

repetitive work of art…

these silent actions proliferate throughout all of my work whether it’s video performance…sculptural…photographic or indeed the text based pieces…whatever medium i’m working with i always seem to get dragged into a decisive feeling of where to go with all of this material and how far can i actually take it whilst avoiding making the bad art work…

the reduction is always there…it’s a choice to work with very little but therein lies the eternal problematic of how to accumulate the ‘less’ whist maintaining procedural integrity in the repetition of an artistic process…and so the project and the underlying strategy remains very much with this repetitiveness of the specific material whilst avoiding the banal…

Franz-Ehmann

Franz Ehmann, “Some Thing Old”, photographed 2010, mounted on aluminium, edition of 5, 29 x 42cm, printed 2014.

i’m constantly looking for the ‘how’ involved in the extraction of meaning…that is always the direction that i’m constantly taking with the works…

the process in effect uncovers any structural inauthenticity and very quickly exposes that which is seen by myself as ultimately banal…but then again you could say that there are more things to be learnt if things don’t actually work toward a positive artistic outcome…

extract…

cancel…

delete…

delete…

however these reminders of what may be possible are almost as important a part of the artist’s procedural and progressive decision making as the words…the photographs…sculpture and or performance works that actually make it through to existing as an exhibited piece of art…

i always find that to place the objects within a space involves a level of seriousness a level of communication with the objects with regard to your initial choice to include them in the first place…and the seriousness behind the value and the meaning that exists behind the very fact that you continue making artworks…

and the contemporary discussions surrounding art in so much as where do we actually take this culturally post dialogue…

Franz-Ehmann

Franz Ehmann, “Some Thing New”, photographed 2010, mounted on aluminium, edition of 5, 90 x 60cm, printed 2014.

and does the art in fact hold value simply because it has attracted a paid value or institutional recognition…

does art function as a social conductor or does it simply function as a commodity…

so the problem becomes how do i place this work in a space and create a dynamic where people actually respond to the work without the encroachment of these competing ideas and ideals…

the newspaper action piece that was shot in 2003…again i wanted to perform an artwork that was completely pared down to a few elements…so in essence all we see is a wooden floor white walls and myself performing the action of rolling by implementing the strategy of gluing the pages together…wearing them and rolling around the gallery space until i reach a stop…where upon i liberate myself from the newsprint and continue to crunch it up into a ball…

so therein lies the action…

leaving the object which is only a form…almost as if it becomes the single and most precise action or theatre that has just taken place…so bringing all of these signifiers together we see a performance we see that it’s staged…

it’s video…

it’s photography…

all of these interdisciplinary forms come together into it’s own kind of end game…eventuating as a video…

Franz-Ehmann

Franz Ehmann, “News Sculpture”, single channel video performance, re-edited HD video still, 2003.

as you’re aware i exhibit both in Europe and Australia and you know it’s quite easy to have the conversation about what it is you are doing artistically within a cultural context with people throughout Europe…

they have no reticence with regard disagreeing with you and yet a disagreement hinges not on whether they may like or dislike you as a person or as an artist it involves more about their cohesive configuration of your output…

understanding…

it’s kind of like a coming to terms with what you’ve presented which sometimes i feel lacks here in Australia…

a certain quest to understand what it is you are actually doing…now whether there is agreement or not this is not what we are looking for in art…it’s more about the thought processes involved in arriving at that decision making process…there exists a willingness to engage with the art work on a deeper level of understanding or at the very least an open attempt to at the very least comprehend what it is you are actually driving at as an artist…

i guess this wraps itself up with being an active participant within a cultural zeitgeist…

with some of the photographic works the multitude of surface i choose to print these works onto surrounds stylistic choices i make in discussing the shift and separation between different mediums such as painting and photography and a desire to link these differences back up as if they operate as one and the same medium and yet i know that this can never be…

Franz-Ehmann

Franz Ehmann, “Blue Room #1”, beeswax, oil stick and varnish on canvas, 25.5 x 30cm, 2014.

however there is a lot of shifting sand when it comes to the printing processes onto different materials and utilising photographic techniques to achieve this through the use of different products so that the materiality of the photograph is becoming much more precise…almost as if there is a renewal of the language that surrounds contemporary art to incorporate these possibilities…perhaps looking forward we can imagine a space that has simply been three dimensionally mapped and the artwork simply being printed directly onto the surface of a gallery wall…

working within installation and in the main object based works…

i think that there is always going to be a certain amount of theatricality involved…mainly due to the physicality involved in these particular works…

in a space where you move from wall to wall…you as the viewer when encountering my particular work now have something physically in front of you…large or small…and it’s this kind of encounter that i feel is much more stimulating to the viewers senses…

so there exists a phenomenon in the room that cannot be overcome simply by avoiding it and in that way a lot of the things that i engage with are executed with the pre knowledge that there is a certain amount of theatre involved throughout the exhibition process…

the preciseness of any theatrical negotiation of a gallery space lies in working out how to place things in a room and strategise how the viewer will actually move through a space…what would be the most logically conscious approach by the viewer in traversing an exhibition…

this thought process and movement by a viewer in itself aligns itself with a sense of the theatricality involved in the art world itself…however in this particular show any theatrics are considerably downplayed such as the lighting…

Franz-Ehmann

Franz Ehmann, Jenna Baldock, “Many Things (it’s a colourful world)”, installation shot, HD video still, “Wishlist #14”, black pigmented beeswax and biro on canvas, 19.5 x 7 x 30cm, 2014.

being in such a light drenched space this type of over dramatisation is not required to create a sense of metaphysical awe…walk into a European gallery at 4 o’clock on a winters afternoon and you’ll clearly understand this particular type of theatricality that surrounds the art world generally…

in a way there is consistently some form of psychological reasoning that lays behind everything i exhibit…

and to deal with certain aspects it is important to impart certain mechanisms to be able to extrude the maximum weight of an object in the realisation that it is a standalone object of art…

within this action there either exists a total separation or a complete maximisation between the thought…

the experience and…

the exhibited piece of art…

how does this function…

from my own perspective it resonates with mindfulness and my experience leads me to believe that it is always best practice to be alert to these elements…it’s like almost holding a sensory overload for these materials and yet we know that of course an audience does not share in the processes involved in the making of these objects which constantly threatens an artist with the notion of their work becoming hermetically sealed…

however i feel that any starting point surrounds the concept of culture in itself and what it is to be an active ingredient in the production of culture…it is a concept that remains very large…

let’s face it…art is culturally huge…it exists in a culturally artificial void of space…

Franz-Ehmann

Franz Ehmann, “Many Things (it’s a colourful world)”, installation shot, HD video still, 2014.

however fine art always echoes an indexical list of thought of processes that can inspire a petri dish like effect within the mind of a specific viewer in establishing some form of reconciliation of thought or likewise alienation and by and large is this not contemporary art’s main driver…

we try to be essentially provocative…

and yet as an artist i believe it is important to draw a line…to be able to reach out to people…

to essentially be humanitarian….

to make it possible for the viewer to comprehend that there is much more to this art work than just an object…photograph…sculpture…video etc etc…

i sometimes have preconceived ideas when it comes to making art works however what i often find is that this preconception can often distract the work from taking its liberated form…when i begin to see these preconceptions starting to creep into my work i am very quick and ruthless when it comes to cancelling this form of preconceived structure…anything that is on the spur of the moment i am usually very suspicious of and whilst it may work quite well when subjected to the critical lense…

over the long term it’s revealed for its overall flakiness…

Franz-Ehmann

Franz Ehmann, Jenna Baldock, “Many Things (it’s a colourful world)”, Installation shot, HD video still, 2014.

the only feeling that i have for my work is the knowledge that i have the right level of thought to engage with an idea and develop it through to an end point…

and whilst this may seem a touch selfish to say…this part of the process is and will remain all about who i am and what it is i allow into the public domain…

thumb prints…

finger prints…

the work has been touched and nurtured into a form of existence…it elicits a distinct human intervention which can operate as quite overwhelming to a viewer…

the experience…

Franz-Ehmann

Franz Ehmann, “Many Things (it’s a colourful world)”, installation shot, HD video still, 2014.

the event…as an artist to be true to the event that took place…to be true to the materiality of the object…but then to talk about the event of a specific piece in that this is not just an action or alternately some thing that just happens…for myself the artistic process is an event…

it is here in the now…

it is existential…

it has a very real existence…(2)

Born in Graz, Austria, Franz Ehmann migrated to Australia in 1986. He received his B.A in Fine Art from the Charles Darwin University in 1991. Ehmann has exhibited extensively both throughout Europe and Australia. Of note here is Many Things (it’s a colourful world), Spiro|Grace Art Rooms, Brisbane (2014); the inaugural Munich Artist Bienale, Im Haust der Kunst, Germany (2013); Words that changed the world and influenced the weather FOE 156, Munich, Germany (2012) and There Where you are not, Factory 49, Sydney (2011). He has completed numerous residencies including with Artspace (Sydney, 2007), Artlink 2000 (Sri Lanka, 2000) and Randall Studio (Brisbane, 1994). He has lectured at the Queensland University of Technology and the Queensland College of Art. His work has been featured in various publications including Speaking the World into Existence (2005) and The Blue Room of Humanity (1997). From 1995 to 1997 Ehmann conceptualised and directed the Soapbox Gallery, Brisbane and has enjoyed input into the formation of numerous artist run initiatives. (3)

 

All images and text courtesy and copyright the artist.

If you would like to connect further with the work of Franz Ehmann feel free to either follow, connect or friend him at either one of your preferred websites:

Facebook | LinkedIn | Website

Sources and further reading:

(1) Artist Talk: Spiro|Grace Art Rooms convened by Kylie Spear.

(2) Franz Ehmann in conversation with Simon Marsh, Spiro|Grace Art Rooms, September 21, 2014.

(3) Franz Ehmann, Artist Statement + Bio, Spiro|Grace Art Rooms, catalogue, September 11, 2014.

Of Interest:

Colless, Edward. Speaking the World into Existence. Institute of Modern Art (2005). 98 pages 10 x 8in softcover ISBN 1 875792 54 6. AUS $22 incl GST + p&p.

One Response to Franz Ehmann

  1. jo says:

    What a great page. A great read.. Franz has certainly sustained his avant garde and contemporary art practice for a long time and whatta ride it has been. What Franz did for Art and the emerging artist in brisbane ( re-soapbox) as one person – gallerist/artist show, he really did so well, unlike anyone post soapbox. There is no soapbox any more and i often ponder to repeat in Franz’s shadow. I admired the art aesthetic and the choices he made with who exhibited etc. Franz took nothing on the chin, especially the mid 90’s with the art ignorant and media, who tried to damage his rep via the local news and he just repelled the jealous and sabotage’s of the scene, usually nobodies with no art cred. But a decade of service to the local art scene, with many sacrifices to art is a true artisan, a real great….as he also sustained his own art practice and continues to create and astound everyone with his art. Amazing Artist, i can only wish him the best… Thankyou Franz….thanx for the memories.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *