Martha Jungwirth. Sin título. Édouard Manet, El espárrago, 2023. Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery. Fotografía:  Ulrich Ghezzi


Sometimes they will remind us of the Big Bang for their almost explosive gestures and the vibrancy of their tones; others are not too far from figurative parameters, because the borders between these and abstraction can be subtle in the work of the Austrian Martha Jungwirth.

A wide selection of his paintings and watercolors, derived from his study of human and animal forms, the history of art and his many travels, can now be seen at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, within the framework of a retrospective, curated by Lekha Hileman Waitoller, which reviews the evolution of his work from the mid-seventies to the present and, in addition to his canvases and pieces on paper, has some artist books. It is an event: she has been one of the most valued authors in Austria and Central Europe for decades and has not visited our country since, as early as 1966 (at the age of 26) she received the Joan Miró Prize.

Very shortly before, Jungwirth had completed his studies at the Universität für angewandte Kunst in Vienna, where he was born and began to shape a production that has not been uniform but has focused on the construction of an abstract and personal language in which, Faced with the supposed coldness of geometry and austere palettes, the visceral and subjective, the emotions, had room. These are the common notes to pieces that, moreover, start from very diverse references: from the self-portrait to the landscape, from the epidemic to the fires in Australia.

Despite her energy and seemingly quick strokes, this Austrian author is not interested in capturing the fleeting, but rather in condensing memories and experiences, showing that our perception of what is real can be limited and that painting can broaden and deepen it when it starts from non-conformity. . His is also manifested in the supports: brown paper, cardboard, accounting books and other unexpected materials that provide previous life, worn edges and stains; that is, chaos, a partially random aesthetic that did not come from her hand and that dialogues with the ordered spaces of her exhibitions.

Structured chronologically, this anthology begins with his first large-format drawings, from the series Indesit, in which he represented everyday objects, already exploring their possible introduction into abstraction; also with individual and group portraits that we can understand as transitional pieces towards his exclusive use of watercolors and oils. Although it may seem strange when referring to a fundamentally abstract artist, she has returned to that genre of portraiture on several occasions, fusing the anthropomorphic with very lively and expressive brushstrokes: she seeks to capture essences through these and colors, avoiding all mimetic features.

Martha Jungwirth.  Untitled, from the Indesit series, 1976. Wien Museum

As for his exterior landscapes, these, as we said, are based on his traveling experience, especially since the seventies; in his reading of classic works or his analysis of the history of architecture. Again, it does not try to recreate specific places, natures with location, but to offer an emotional response to them, combining abstract features and identifiable forms to underline what these compositions have as a link between the exterior and internal thought, the world and the individuality.

Martha Jungwirth.  Empty room.  Yemen Series, 2005. Private collection.  Courtesy of Galerie Krinzinger and Martha Jungwirth

In Jungwirth's most recent paintings that arrived in Bilbao we will find, for their part, animals: they have to do with current events and his concern about climate change. One of his latest series is titled Australidelphia (Australidelphia) and consists of images of Australian marsupial mammals whose characteristics, in some cases, have hardly changed since prehistoric time. In addition to looking tenderly at this species, in these works Jungwirth reflects on the devastating fires that devastated this country five years ago, and that caused many victims to the fauna; The pink, red, brown and black tones allude to that violence.

A final group of paintings in the exhibition are works inspired by those of artists before the Austrian, such as Richard Gerstl, Frans Hals and Oskar Kokoschka and, in closer years, Francisco de Goya and Édouard Manet; He proposes aggressive deviations from the originals based on his own language, playing with the materiality of the pieces and balancing his gestural brushstrokes with emptiness, open spaces.

Martha Jungwirth.  No title.  Australidelfos Series, 2020. Private collection, London.  Photography: Charles Duprat
Martha Jungwirth.  Bucephalus, 2021. Nicoletta Fiorucci Collection.  Photography: Lisa Rastl
Martha Jungwirth.  No title.  Édouard Manet, The Asparagus, 2023. Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery.  Photography: Ulrich Ghezzi

Martha Jungwirth


Abandoibarra Avenue, 2


From June 7 to September 22, 2024

Similar Posts