Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, since the Jury members living abroad and the 3 selected artists cannot travel to Paris, we have sadly decided to cancel the exhibition dedicated to our prize at the Salon du Dessin, as well as the reception for the announcement on the 26th.
However, we have decided to maintain the process of designating the Laureate by organizing the Jury's vote by e-mail.
We are very disappointed about this situation and we hope to see you when all these bad moments will be far away from us.
From 11 October 2019 to 26 January 2020, Vienna’s Albertina plays host to the exhibition “A Passion for Drawing”, which includes part of your donation to the Mnam-Centre Pompidou.
How was this organised?
Jonas Storsve, curator of the Prints and Drawings Department at the Mnam-Centre-Pompidou, Paris, went to Vienna for the annual meeting of his peers, when we had just made the donation of one thousand two hundred of our drawings. He was therefore extremely proud to announce the news of this important gif; then, shortly aferwards, we attended the opening of the exhibition “Drawing Now” at the Albertina. We met both the curator Elsy Lahner and the director general Klaus Albrecht Schröder, who expressed his desire to present works from the donation. Te two museums subsequently organised everything, while we made a few trips to and from Vienna, since we are still ambassadors for the collection that we donated. Elsy Lahner chose only about twenty artists for this magnifcent exhibition, so as to show some splendid groups of works that happily dialogue with one another..
Does this type of event change the way in which you consider your own collection?
No, not really, but when exhibitions are held, we are always delighted to see the works again within a broader context. What has changed how we consider our present collection to some extent is the desire to continue assembling works by the same artists. Even if this desire may make our purchases somewhat less spontaneous…
The Prize and the donation are at once independent and interrelated, for the day on which we decided to restore prestige to drawing, we steered our collection even further in this direction. What's more, when travelling to other places to prepare exhibitions, we discover new artists whom we later go and visit in their studios. We find that fascinating.
This year, the three nominees for the Drawing Prize, Callum Innes, Florian Pumhösl and Juan Uslé, each in their own specifc way, fall within the tradition of abstract art. How did you select them?
From the outset we wanted to give priority to three artists exploring abstraction, notably based on the work of Callum Innes, who features in our collection. We were also familiar with Juan Uslé’s works, some of which we had acquired several years ago. We discovered Florian Pumhösl’s drawings more recently.
The final selection is always made in the same manner: as soon as we have fnished looking at the twenty or so files submitted by members of the committee, we start visiting the artists in their studios and galleries or take another look at their works in museums. These visits play a decisive role in our selection and this time, completely by chance, we ended up with three men! As we enjoy exchanging views with the public, we would be delighted to know what they think when the nominees are announced on 12 December 2019
By Marie Maertens
With his watercolours and paintings in delicate shades, Callum Innes perpetuates the idea of art that combines notions of spirituality and nihilism, in that his painterly
approach stems from a stripping, or even an erasure, of his own gestures.
In his early career, Innes was in fact a figurative painter, at a time when tutelary artists were called Georg Baselitz, Markus Lüpertz or Jörg Immendorff and were renowned for their virulent expressionist approach that captivated the onlooker in a few seconds. Innes made a stand against this obvious art form, preferring “that which takes a while to be discovered and is not immediately understood.”
He feels the need to distance himself from his initial expressive impulse, so that the work can speak for itself and his images can gradually dissolve into the heart of the
paper or into one another. He finds it amusing to say that there’s not much to see, then likes to surprise onlookers with a spurious symmetry or slightly disorganised centring. Yet “physicality”, a word he frequently uses, remains and is developed in a controlled manner.
The work then acquires its independence and asserts itself in several different phases.
The process of creation is always relatively swift, but is followed by the time the work spends in the studio: sometimes a few months, but sometimes several years, when the artist may rework it or set it aside… With a Shakespearian sense of dramatic composition, Innes doesn’t balk at testifying to human fragility and offering the possibility of failure. By applying multiple layers, he firts with the moment of going over the top, which would render his work null and void. It is funny how he was once ofered a project based on Honoré de Balzac’s Unknown Masterpiece, a short story about the search for perfection… which ended with the painting being destroyed.
This need to experiment prompts Innes to produce a prolific body of work and to reinvent himself, while keeping to a restricted palette of colours – with a sustained use of blue and orange in his watercolours.
These shades recall J.M.W. Turner’s skies, but also express how a dark dominant colour beings a lighter one to life. Innes speaks of Henri Matisse’s recurrent use of black to brighten the surrounding colours. What is important is then to stand right in front of the work “being mentally and spiritually in its place”, before it can begin its own dialogue with the spectator…
In precise lines, at once supple and sensual, Florian Pumhösl pursues the story of abstraction and minimalism. His manner of drawing (together with his painting, sculpture and videos) is based on repetition and exercises in which he questions the very essence and reality of an artwork.
From his early career onwards, Pumhösl undertook to use abstraction as an overall theme.
Twentieth-century modernism thus provided him with a vocabulary for which he decided to act as a witness or a go-between. “Several of my references come from pre-war trends,” he explains. “However, I don’t consider them for their historical character, since I visually focus on works that are still intact, radical, or even useful or desirable.” Apart from these formal references, he draws on concrete subjects such as the salt evaporation ponds in Guérande (western France), for their compositions, medieval illustrations of the Torah, for their pre-geographical layout, or other maps and textiles, which, in his eyes, create a strong visual
impact. He then develops his own geometry, in the freedom that ofen follows impeccable knowledge, questioning the possibility of pictorialness in our time. “Abstraction,” he continues, “enables us to solve purely formal problems, while refecting on the link between imagination and reality, in keeping with a
dialogue with previous generations and the question of the artist’s place in this world.”However minimalist art may be, like that of Agnes Martin, whom he admires in particular, it remains no less tangible.
Tough artists El Lissitzky, Piet Mondrian and Teo van Doesburg, whom he also cites, are regarded as founding
fathers of abstract art, they nonetheless refected on spatial concepts.
Tus, Pumhösl elaborates infnite positions of straight and curved lines, or stamps (he collects rubber stamps), which he likes to apply to very fne Japanese paper. His lines, drawn with natural grey pigments or in Crayola red crayon, constantly give rise to new narratives or pictorial explorations. “For my kind of work,” he concludes, “drawing remains the matrix for research into proportions, textures and compositions.” Not to mention that this medium allows him to convey an implicit, yet very real, sofness and sensuality.
In 1992, Juan Uslé was invited to Kassel’s
Documenta 9 and what he remembers about the exhibition sums up his approach to work perfectly. “Jan Hoet, the curator, wanted to show ‘substance’. That conjured up so many possibilities that it was difficult, but I felt the need to submit something that was both real and came from inside of me…” Juan Uslé’s watercolours – gradations of colour and plays of transparency – effectively bring together the history of abstraction and memories of landscapes, accompanied by his own breathing and autobiography. Having studied in Spain, the artist trained in a period dominated by Antoni Tàpies, Manolo Millares, Antonio Saura and Luis Feito, immersed in the materialist vision that he also discovered at the Fundación Juan March, Cuenca, the first Spanish museum reserved for abstract art.
He moved to New York in the 1980s, fascinated by the city’s insular character and the quality of its anonymity. He would ofen observe the graphic movements of the water and refections of the moonlight on the East River, transposed to his works as grid-like efects. Visually, he challenges painters that he admires, namely Joan Mitchell, Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko. He also experiments with Steve Reich’s minimal music, to which he listens in tandem with religious or Tibetan chants, so as to put himself in a certain mindset, before starting work in the studio in a state of total concentration.
Drawing, painting, repeating the gesture…
Juan Uslé develops his subtle shades of blues, greens, greys and blacks, blended with the occasional yellow or red, by listening to the beating of his heart and his breathing.
“I analyse the reaction of one colour to another,” he says, “and decide on their transparency or density by applying numerous variations to my lines.” He uses words such as vibrations, sounds, fow or fuidity, and when asked which were his favourite watercolours, he replied: “the most dynamic, expressive and in a sense musical.”
His work focuses on specifc movements, creating rhythm and plays on light. The diferent surfaces seem to move backwards and for wards, giving rise to a toing and froing within the work and a new spatial form that redefnes conventional perspective. Juan Uslé produces drawings in a ritualized manner, which makes him feel at once disconnected and totally bound to the world.