Rosa Hausleithner


“From the thorough formation of the concept of space to an abstract surface design”

Representationality and the consistent form of objects constitute the image space, by visualizing how things are related to one another, for example through being in the fore or background, relocated or covering other objects. The consistent form of objects that we translate into three-dimensionality – even though we only see them as two-dimensional outline drawings on a flat surface, discernible as chairs or, as in earlier series of works by Rosa Hausleithner, as spatialized graphic characters – is reminiscent of how the image space has been viewed over the course of art history: Painting is primarily an interpretation of space.

Early landscapes, figures in certain situations and the layering of planes parallel to the picture constituted the key elements of a painting style with a range of references, including the Bible and the invisible. During the Renaissance, central-perspective images were the dominant principle of painting and a criterion for the value of a painting in the context of art history up until the turmoil of the 20th century, which saw a paradigm shift.

The artistic development of Rosa Hausleithner, who studied sculpture under Bruno Gironcoli at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, can be described as a journey which has taken her from the thorough formation of the concept of space to an abstract surface design. Issues of spatiality and objects which were addressed in her early works resulted in three-dimensional objects on the walls and room mock-ups (“KALEIDOS”), which were exhibited at the Secesion in 1991. Subsequently, she scaled back the sculptural nature of her three-dimensional objects, using painting techniques to create the three-dimensional feel.

Various series of reflexive spatial constructs mark the beginning of this change, which increasingly underlines the imagery and the potential of painting. These paintings are reflexive insofar as the arrangement of the planes and their layering challenge our viewing habits which we use to identify objects in order to explore the image space in all its depth.

Rosa Hausleithner’s paintings from recent years increasingly depict images with content which no longer comprises forms controlled from the outside. As soon as the appropriation gestures controlled by our experiences fall short, a fictional space is revoked from us. In this manner, we are caught between transparency and recognition at one end of the spectrum, and non-transparency on the other: Contours are thin connecting lines and the arrangement of light and dark surface fragments creates an opaque density that has a weighting effect in the painting as a whole. Contrasts and light-dark effects, which were once optical indicators for extension, full objects and shadow projections, have now been replaced by other artistic means, which in a process of reversion and weighting create compositions of surface structures. This abstract surface design, however, does not deny its origins in sculpture. There are even some references to her earlier works such as “L’hombra uno”, 1987, which fleshes out a surface construct in three-dimensional space.

In her paintings, Rosa Hausleithner merges three and two-dimensionality, preventing the fragmentation of the image into individual components and the application of general methods of projection and construction. By turning the object space into the surface of a painting, seeing becomes an event and gradually replaces perception. The culturally practised habit of seeing, in which images are considered depictions and references to something that is not here, is turned against itself, thus releasing the paintings.

Rosa Hausleithner brings the intrinsic value of painting to the fore. And the foreground is now a layered and fragmented image surface, a composition of extensive colour fields which break at the edges. Line constructs create perception bridges along tentative fixations of the gaze, which mark instants of shifting, overlapping, closeness and distance.

She thus moves the focus from a viewing habit based on perspective to a more open way of looking at paintings, which itself requires a heterogenic space.

Text: Kurt Kladler, 2018
(English translation: Mandana Taban)