The Vienna-based artist Alois Mosbacher (born 1954 in Strallegg/Austria) is well-known in Switzerland. His paintings have been shown in numerous exhibitions in institutions and galleries, for example, in Aargauer Kunsthaus (solo exhibition, 1987), in the Kabinett in Bern (solo exhibition, 2007), or in Kunstmuseum Luzern (group exhibition, 2006 and 2010).
Mosbacher has made a lasting career internationally, with solo presentations in the Museum moderner Kunst in Vienna (1997), the Städtische Galerie Nordhorn (2005), or in the Neue Galerie Graz (2010), as well as frequent contributions to international group exhibitions. Kunsthaus Baselland dedicates a solo exhibition to the artist and displays a series of his paintings, all specially created for this exhibition in recent months, as well as a sculptural installation and a video work.
The topics of Mosbacher’s paintings are based on different resources. The artist owns a large photo archive that consists of photographs taken by himself, found pictures and internet images. “The painter doesn’t need to invent anything anymore, he searches images in his pool and like investigators follows all the traces temporarily stored there…,” as Annelie Pohlen describes the process. Even though the archive is an important base for the working method of the artist, the relevant result is nevertheless determined by the selected topics and projects as such. In recent years the topic of the forest was implemented in various projects. In an interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist, Mosbacher described his selection of topic as follows, “The thing with the forest is a very complex matter. There is always a sinister implication as well. We know this subject from Grimms’ Fairy Tales, etc. And the big bad wolf, for instance, turns into the ‘Unabomber’ with a right-wing background, who becomes Theodor Kaczinsky in the woods of Montana. This is a negative utopia. The forest is a suitable stage for outsider roles. Because, it still offers places and spaces where it is possible to establish a parallel world or an alternative world. It always existed within the overall subject of the forest” (Catalogue, Neue Galerie Graz).
For the exhibition in Kunsthaus Baselland he created Big Home, Paintball, Forest and Bird (all from 2010) — four newly composed large formats consisting of 16 and 24 individual images. Each of the individual small format paintings can stand on their own, but in the predetermined order they join their immediate neighbouring images to create a whole. However, time and again, the artist breaks up the order of readability from one single image to another. Sometimes a towering tree trunk in the lower row of images does not continue in the upper ones, or the head of a person is cut off. The continuation of time zones is also often not carried through consequently. Even though the artist creates a readability of a complex whole with this composition, he leaves open potential individual readings to the recipient in detail. We are ensnared to interchange individual pictures with each other only to find out later that they have already found their place in the given composition. What is important is the active integration of the viewer.
Forest shows three male figures with their back to the viewer, whom the visitor can join, as it were, from behind. They look into the forest, broken branches and trees open new paths and zones that lead into the unknown. In an irrational way clouds and colour spots cover the perceived story line, which on closer inspection doesn’t exist. There is no narration as such, Mosbacher says, the images are not neutral either. The individually shaped ‘image memory’ of the viewer has a determining influence on their readability. In Paintball the artist takes up the so-called ‘live role-playing games’, which are for instance carried out by various clubs that meet for medieval fighting games in the forest or communities that re-enact Lord of the Rings or Star Wars in the forest. Drawn with pencil on canvas, the painting depicts individual characters and game groups and their temporary tent dwellings. Separate paint shots are cast on top of that, which in turn are reminiscent of paintball shooting galleries and establish an art historical connection to impressionism. The painting Bird mainly consists of drawn individual pictures of entwined branches. The bird seems to be caught in them. Big Home however takes up the topic of forest huts, the contents ranging from a child’s hut to the forest dwellings of various outsiders of society.
The video work outside/fiction (2010) escalates the mood of eeriness insofar as the shots fired at a glass pane and the associated clattering sounds reveal a forest motif each time. The video brings to a close the mental tour through the topic of forest with all the individual memories and recounted stories which we mentally carry around with us.
Text by Sabine Schaschl