The answer: Art! – Gilbert Bretterbauer at Smolka Contemporary

Bretterbauer has always been a textile artist. He uses fabrics and embroidery to create spatial installations, carpets, tapestries and interior elements such as the "Love Chair", which now occupies the center of the gallery. A text by Sabine B. Vogel.

Gilbert Bretterbauer, Why, why not, 2023 © 2024 Smolka Contemporary / Wilhelm Smolka KG

How can an abstract representation be combined with a narrative? Especially in the medium of the embroidered picture? This question was the starting point for Gilbert Bretterbauer’s group of works, which is currently being exhibited at Smolka Contemporary gallery under the title “Say it!”. Bretterbauer has always been a textile artist, he explains in a conversation. Using fabrics and embroidery, he creates spatial installations, carpets, tapestries and interior elements such as the “Love Chair”, which now stands in the middle of the gallery: wonderfully playful with its colorful ribbons and curved rods, extremely comfortable and with the potential to allow an astonishing closeness between the two sitters.

But what do the small, faceless, highly abstracted figures tell us as they carry spherical discs in front of them in the small embroidered pictures amidst the colorful background? Each figure is trapped in its own small color space, separated from one another by embroidered lines that suggest a dense, architecture-like structure. In the oil paintings with similar motifs, the lines are even reminiscent of conveyor belts. The heads of the figures are empty – Bretterbauer speaks of a “senseless activity”, of activities that only lead to apparent results. “Can we break this up?” he asks – and provides the answer with the bright speech bubbles in some of the pictures: the speech bubbles contain no text, only patterns. It is a language of its own – the language of art.

Gilbert Bretterbauer, Treasure 1, 2023, © 2024 Smolka Contemporary / Wilhelm Smolka KG

The balls resting on frames offer a similar response. They seem to have been removed from the embroidered pictures and have now – like the Love Chair – become a means of communication: Carrying or passing on the balls may seem pointless in the case of the pictorial figures. For gallery visitors, however, it can be the beginning of an exchange.

Love Chair, embroidery pictures and the oil paintings all revel in a wonderful riot of color – another answer to the question of breaking out of a meaningless routine: colors shape our perception of the self and the environment, colors control our behavior and influence our mood. Colors are our window to the world, and Bretterbauer has opened it wide for us here.


Gilbert Bretterbauer, Smolka Contemporary, until 2.3.2024

Welcome to Vienna Art Week 2024