ViennaMarielis Seyler: Sensitivity and Reflection
On the Resonance of Nature and Humanity in the Work of Marielis Seyler.
curated by: Carl Aigner
“… the large-format portrait of two girls with a boxer between them is quite different. Long-haired, blonde, naked, they stand facing their trusted photographer quite unaffectedly. And it is not the sepia tone alone which sets this scene in the Belle Epoch (in this version, it is photo emulsion on packing paper, the large-scale version is a black-and-white photo on baryta paper worked over with red watercolour). How the dog stares at us like a hellhound might suggest the two girls are his property, which he could maul to pieces if he chose; but upon second glance, he’s their protector, a guardian angel shared by the two.
No paedophile would dare touch them, in case his fingers longed to brush the pencil stroke semblance of their female crevices… In front of this innocent trio, Marielis Seyler had Lucas Cranach the Younger in mind, who she always regarded a pornographer for veiling his ladies’ breasts and lower abdomen with a transparency that cunningly draws everyone’s eyes precisely there…”
Excerpt from the opening speech by Julian Schutting, Produzentengalerie Wien, October 1, 2019.
“Being a woman, whether in the past or present, the female body as a site and symbol of creativity are pervasive themes in Seyler’s work. This can also be seen in the intimate and touching depiction of a pregnant woman—with snails as a metaphor for security, pregnancy, and birth. Equally as enchanting and enigmatic are the angel pictures—very fitting now in the pre-Christmas season! I am fascinated by the analogue technique the artist repeatedly uses: the photographs are developed on crumpled transparent paper, which was treated with a photographic emulsion. Thereby, the images occasionally appear to be drawings (sometimes they are graphically modified as well); at the same time, they have something that reminds us of an object. ‘For me, the photo in itself is too documentary,’ says Seyler, ‘but with different materials, the images become vulnerable and ephemeral, they attain an artistic value…’
The step-on picture at the beginning of the exhibition is also more than fragile—almost a trademark of Seyler’s art… The artist has frequently produced step-on pictures, large-scale prints with photos of various living beings (like butterflies and snails) or of the human body, which she places on the floor and subjects them to a random process of being stepped on. These works oscillate between photography and action… An image on the ground has a different meaning and value than one on the wall, Seyler explains. We can, we should walk over them. This leaves traces of ‘use’, the photographs are further ‘developed’, and they bear witness to our behaviour with humans and with nature, too. I have scruples with stepping on a naked woman… ‘Sure, that may well be,’ says Seyler, ‘but women around the world are being trampled on a lot.’ The artist challenges us, the audience, explicitly to do the same. But we are also being played. I am confronted with a moral issue: What should I do? Should I simply do it because someone tells me to? At the same time, the piece only becomes a valid artwork when it exhibits traces from trampling, once the work has been violated in this way. Each person must decide this for him or herself.”
Excerpt from the opening speech by Günther Oberhollenzer, Galerie Peithner- Lichtenfels, December 12, 2019.
“Sensitivity and reflection become milestones of artistic world exploration. It is literally in the nature of the matter that—especially for the generation of Marielis Seyler—the work of Joseph Beuys is constantly given new life, with its anthropological-shamanistic world view of a unity of nature and humanity as a process of transformation. At the same time, it suggests the dispute since the time of Romanticism around the question of whether art can perfect nature or whether nature is the unattainable model for artistic discourse. In light of the developments in bio- and genetic engineering, the question seems to have been decided in favour of the former. Societies that have found a genetic approach to the origins of the biological world can no longer return to a mimetic concept of art (which has become the state of the art at the latest since modernism).
The works of Marielis Seyler can thus be understood as outrage at the disavowal or mechanisation of our ecosystem. With insistence on moments of untouchability in nature, sensitivity becomes a sovereign form of experiencing nature, and experiencing nature as sensitivity becomes an indispensable credo of artistic self-image: ‘Art has the paradoxical privilege or the ability (dynamis) to make nature apparent precisely by being art (and not nature),’ wrote Hartmut Böhme so strikingly on the relationship between nature and art.” Text excerpt from: Carl Aigner, “Empfindung und Reflexion. Natur und Mensch im Werk von Marielis Seyler,” EIKON 107 (2019): 40.
Born 1942 in Wels, Austria
1958 – 1961 Higher Graphical Federal Education and Research Institute in Vienna
1962 – 1968 photographer in Munich, Tokyo and Barcelona
1968/69 guest student Rudolf Hausner, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. 1986 resumption of her own artistic activity, focusing on conceptual photography. The main subject: Human beings and nature in the sense of “extended photography”.
From 1992 national and international exhibitions
Marielis Seyler lives and works in Vienna and Neulengbach.
all images © the gallery and the artist(s)