Nick Oberthaler 'Zweifel und Gnade (Doubt and Grace)'
November 25, 2011 – January 3, 2012
The opening will be on Friday, November 25th
from 6:30pm to 8:30pm, in the artist’s
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac is delighted to
announce its first exhibition with Austrian artist
Nick Oberthaler. This show will bring together
a selection of the artist’s recent works in the
Nick Oberthaler is a draftsman who uses
intriguing techniques. Though he likes to refer
to his works as ‘drawings’, he also works with
paint and ink, which he further combines with
pasted-on fragments. He remains partial to
paper as his “canvas”, due to its fragile
quality. The marks that he makes on it are
unalterable. The paper is sometimes
damaged, and he likes to treat it roughly.
Paper is a delicate surface that also enables the artist to create very understated pieces. He
works with a variety of materials like ink and wax, pastel and gouache or watercolor, which
create unpredictable effects and a tension on the paper’s surface.
In his compositions, Nick Oberthaler uses numerous media: photographs, photocopies of
images found in books, magazines or on the internet… Untitled (vertical horizon/after Philip de
Koninck) (2011) is a small drawing in ink and pastel. The materials are visibly superimposed one
atop another; large brush strokes frame the center, which is occupied by a postcard glued on
its flip side. One recognizes the famously nebulous skies, characteristic of landscapes by De
Koninck, which the artist partially concealed using a thick black stripe. The spatial aspects of
the drawings are constructed in relation to a perspective whose vanishing point, within this
postcard, appears like a window on an off-center horizon.
Nick Oberthaler likes to combine his drawings. He assembles or juxtaposes them in the
installations, which he considers to be veritable laboratories. Sometimes he puts up walls of
plywood, as if he is trying to shift the walls of the atelier within the exhibition, in order to
preserve what is intuitive and spontaneous. He likes to meddle with the fixed picture rails of the
museum or gallery. All the way down to the measurements, he navigates between strict form
and incomplete form.
The images that inspired him are sometimes pasted nearby, or pasted on the drawings
themselves. Untitled (is painting a construction?) (2011) is a geometric assemblage of stretches
of color, in nuances of gray, although the neat contours bring to mind the structure of an
abstract geometric painting. The rigor of this construction seems deliberately disrupted by the
hastily glued-on pictures. Nick Oberthaler leaves behind stains, mistakes; he adds pasted-on
papers to this framework, which create a mise en abime of his geometric formulations.
The finishings are uneven: either very final or very sketchy. He wants to continually maintain the
mystery of the associations that he chooses, and the uncertainty about what he truly wishes to
reveal. He insists on the ambiguity of images, letting the viewer’s gaze wander and decide
which point of reference to focus on within the oeuvre.
The exhibition title, “Doubt and Grace”, refers
to these two states that often affect the
artist. Oberthaler takes a lot of time to
combine his materials and his images:
everything may change at the very last
minute, and one never knows if a drawing is
truly complete when it is exhibited.
The artist also presents wall-mounted
sculptures in this exhibition. His drawings
are juxtaposed with metallic structures
shaped like crosses. This module plots a
geometry from the wall that then extends the
drawing's limits within the space. It is not
simply a backdrop: the artist shapes our
perception by directing our eye to a meeting
point. It is a metaphor of the mirror, in which
a favorite image is slipped into the corner. In
these sculptures, we may also see an
imaginary landscape, presented on the
panes of a window whose contours have
been erased: a nostalgic vision of a state we
do not wish to forget.
Oberthaler likes to think of his work as something metaphysical; he explores the states of
melancholy, nostalgia, and contemplation. He draws the way he would write poetry.
Nick Oberthaler was born in 1981 in Bad Ischl, Austria. He lives and works in Brussels where he
is currently doing a residency at the WIELS Center for Contemporary Art. Oberthaler graduated
from the Akademie der bildenden Künste in Vienna and the Ecole Supérieure des beaux-arts in
He has participated in a number of group shows in Europe. Since 2008, he is co-editor of the
monthly magazine Blackpages.
A book will be published on the occasion of this exhibition with essays by art critic Joanna
Fiduccia and Gallien Déjean, independent art critic and curator.
For all inquiries regarding this exhibition, please contact Victoire de Pourtalès: email@example.com.