Vienna’s artists talk about what drives them, what they are currently working on and how they are doing it. Exclusively for MEET THE ARTIST, they show their latest works while they are still in the process of creation. We present artists working in Vienna whose studios could be discovered during the Open Studio Days 2019.
VIENNA ART WEEK: Alex, you studied fine arts with Peter Kogler, Albert Oehlen and Daniel Richter. Please tell us what your art is about.
Alex Ruthner: My art is the love of life. Since this love is very difficult to find, I describe the search for it and my idea of this love. Actually, you describe things or something that is difficult or impossible to describe with words. Therefore, depending on the format or situation, I choose the appropriate vocabulary from the work groups into which I divide my paintings. Sometimes they are meadows I use to represent something otherworldly, or abstractions of nature or people in nature. I only want to express an attitude or a thought, for example, through rhythm, form and colour. On the other hand, there is a figurative part of my work, which is not limited to one theme, but is explained further, developed in series.
VAW: What are you working on right now?
Alex Ruthner: I’m currently painting a book, just as a writer writes a book. A collection of about 100 works will result in a book subtitled “Volume 1”. All works will be painted in the format 30 cm x 40 cm or 40 x 30 cm. This will also be the format of the book.
I don’t want to call it a catalogue or artist’s book, because my book will be in between. The graphic works will be completed with texts that I will write like a painter paints a picture. This book will be published later this year.
VAW: That sounds very exciting! Why don’t you tell us about the process of making the book?
Alex Ruthner: I create the small pictures, the picture part of the book, so to speak, in tranches. First, the canvases are made, primed, sanded to create a painting ground. Then the pictures are drawn, very quickly, roughly, with oil crayons. Preliminary drawings are made, which determine the motif of the picture. This usually takes only a few minutes or seconds. Then the pictures are gradually completed in oil colors. They are small oil paintings or rather oil-colored drawings. Many are revised. This process takes several weeks. Besides the painting, the layout is designed, the texts are started in the mind and designed.
I have to find a publisher, communicate with the print shop, the final material and format have to be adapted again and again. So, the work steps flow into each other.
VAW: The beginning is half of the whole, says Aristotle. Another proverb says it’s heavy – like the first stroke on a white canvas, for example. How do you start a new work?
The beginning is the first half, the completion is the second half of the whole. So, a certain talent for organisation is an advantage. If you can time work steps and make use of your own activity, there is a higher probability of holding the printed book in your hands soon. Allegedly.
VAW: How or where do you find inspiration?
Alex Ruthner: My book “Volume 1” is inspired by the “Aphorisms” by Franz Kafka and Italo Calvino’s “The Invisible Cities”. It should be understood as a collection of episodes, as poetry. Perhaps also as a cinematic storyboard.
In terms of drawing, I try to show a certain laxity that runs through the whole book: The drawings of John Romita jr., which stimulate our idea of movement, or the dystopian energy of Katsuhiro Otomo or Masamune Shirow have inspired me since I was a child.
VAW: Do you have a personal work ritual that you like to follow?
Alex Ruthner: Waking up, drinking coffee and working with concentration. Not being distracted by myself.
VAW: What is especially important to you about your studio?
Alex Ruthner: Good light and good air.