Opera Gallery London is pleased to present a solo exhibition featuring thirteen recent paintings as well as historic works by Austrian painter, performer, composer, photographer and scenographer Hermann Nitsch who is one of the most influential artists of his generation.
Hermann Nitsch is considered a key figure in the 1960s Viennese Actionism movement and continues to use a radical method of painting through his creation of the Orgien Mysterien Theatre – a concept of ceremonial performance art comparable to Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk, which translates to “Total Art Work”.
While appearing chaotic and violent, his works are in fact a celebration of life and mirror the human soul. This “total art form” calls to all five human senses and as such, Hermann Nitsch creates his paintings using his entire body. He uses oil and acrylic paints which he spreads onto his large-scale canvases, using brushes and sponges, unconventional tools, as well as directly with his hands, feet, and whole-body movements. Through these actions, Nitsch demonstrates his energetic, spiritual, sensual and passionate persona.
Nitsch’s intimate and physical artistic process is deliberately suffused with a strong ritual charge meant to set off a broader reflection about the individual and the ephemeral nature of life. Commenting on his technique, Hermann Nitsch said: “Pouring, spilling, and splattering, squeezing sponges, slapping paint on, soiling, and rolling ought not to be seen as an actionist approach to wielding materials but rather as a shamanic ritual in which various actions symbolising birth and death, killing and expiation, are performed in a process of self-discovery”.
His rich and creative expression materialises in numerous media from painting, drawing, engraving and installations to opera and musical creation, all of which are constitutive of the “Theatre” or “total work of art” in accordance with the Wagnerian concept of Gesamtkunstwerk. Through this use of a contemporary artistic expression, Hermann Nitsch strives to show modern individuals that the universe surrounding us, in spite of its sheer diversity.
As well as showcasing recent works, Herman Nitsch’s solo exhibition at Opera Gallery features paintings from the artist’s early period that draws inspiration from Renaissance and Baroque art which was very present in Austria thanks to the reign of the Habsburgs. It is this, coupled with Nitsch’s initial training with the reactionary sculptor Karl Nieschlag – who had rejected Modernism outright and mainly produced religious art – that saw the artist commence his artistic career as a church painter aged fifteen. This presentation also includes works from the Bayreuth Festival, where Hermann Nitsch staged the « Valkyrie » with a painting action under the musical direction of Pietari Inkinen in July and August of 2021.
Hermann Nitsch’s solo exhibition opens at Opera Gallery during London’s Frieze week from 14th October – 14th November 2021