There really is a little dog painted in the top right corner of one of the canvases in Max Brand’s exhibition in Schwaz. Yet the exhibition title “Die Abenteuer des Hündchen Bleibsoklein” (The Adventures of Little Dog Ever-small), a linguistic expression of unusual timbre within the art context, does not directly relate to his new works, but rather joins the company of figures drifting across Brand’s canvases. Its mention in the title seems at least to have resulted in the dog’s preservation, instead of its being immediately overpainted to make room for new constellations. It doesn’t sound like something the artist necessarily came up with himself, but rather picked out of another context such as a children’s picture book. Thus it shares something with the figures, animals, plants and toys, spots and scribbles that populate the canvasses. They too might just as well have been sketched or painted by someone else, perhaps on a school bench or cave wall, and the artist’s role was just to process the residue from anonymous productions.
Although Max Brand’s works have a high recognition value, it is less about a unique style or avoidance thereof, and more about surrendering to the flow of pictorial signs without structuring them hierarchically. But this does not mean that his work process is uncontrolled. Conscious decisions guide the composition, colours and contours, favouring certain forms which are then left on the surface of this primordial soup of painterly articulation, driving or calming the dynamics of the image. Some figures are completely dependant on one another whereas others are so airily delineated that they appear unperturbed by the worlds cavorting in their interiors. Some peer directly at the viewer and, at the moment of encounter, relegate the observer back to their position outside the pictorial space.
Many of Brand’s presentations feature transitions from the image space into the room itself, where the painting extends beyond the edge of the frame onto the walls and floor. In Schwaz, it is the performance that largely assumes this expansive role. “Light Therapy” by Michele di Menna with Max Brand and the Lonely Boys (Daphne Ahlers and Rosa Rendl) takes place in the main room of the gallery during the opening, while Brand’s paintings are distributed through the hallway, foyer and office. Michele di Menna is no stranger to Schwaz. In 2017 she presented “In the Land of Skeletons” at the gallery, merging performative action and exhibition.
Text: Anette Freudenberger
Photos © Verena Nagl