Sonja-Maria Borstner on Deflection by Stefan Reiterer
In structural engineering, “deflection” is the extent to which a part of a structural element deforms under a specific load. Looking at Stefan Reiterer’s artistic work, one could assume that it embodies a similar extent and flexibly meets the “load” of his chosen medium: painting.
Reiterer deliberately avoids titles that are weighty with meaning. Instead, he numbers and names his works according to technical parameters and designations (Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO; Templates or Texture Mapping) in order, according to him, to “outsource the individual behind the painting.” What thereby steps forward and hides behind the abbreviations and generic designations are intriguing entities that oscillate between abstract form and blurred landscape. Their hazy surfaces and fluid brushwork are reminiscent of Impressionist pictorial compositions. Curved edges and creature-like features draw parallels to Surrealist avant-gardists, illusionistic protrusions and bends mimic perfect trompe l’oeils in oil.
Characterized by an intense engagement with analog and digital spaces and their manipulation, it comes as little surprise, however, that upon closer inspection breaks and glitches in the perspectives and subjects of Reiterer’s paintings stand out.
Within the distorted color landscapes, voids and fragments repeatedly project outward, interrupting the abstract maelstrom: a tiled house wall, the top view of a street, perhaps even a starry sky?
What we see here is a kind of cycle of repetition inherent in all of the artist’s works: similar pictorial fragments and excerpts appear again and again, accompany him in different forms and shapes, often over long periods of time, and manifest themselves in multipart series of works. The palette of visual set pieces is diverse and refers to infinity. The elements refer to each other and interlock. One finds abstract structures, markings, and detailed aerial and satellite photographs, which Reiterer distorts digitally, prints out, paints, distorts again, paints again, and finally transfers to large wooden panels—cut to fit the respective form.
For his Templates series, the artist has been going one step further for several years, reworking existing analog collages in digital space. As 3D scans, the facsimiles there undergo a further transformation stage: now arbitrarily stretchable, rotatable, and distortable, they enter a fluid state in which different image references once again morph into one another and become a digital fabric that is completely independent of time and place. From the infinite view possibilities and perspectives of the 3D model, Reiterer selects a variant in the further process, which he then ties back to physical space using classical painterly means. As a mimicry of the likeness, digitally generated bends and distortions are repeated illusionistically, and color gradients and surfaces are translated in detail into analog oil paintings on wood. In this sense, the painterly results can be understood as further manifestations of that recurring cycle that fuses images into anachronistic vessels in which the digital informs the analog and vice versa.
In the exhibition Deflection, the artist positions the latest versions of his Templates series in an expansive backdrop of painted fabric panels (as part of the Texture Mapping series) that, in reference to the exhibition’s title, arches across the floor of the gallery space like a deflection.
Once captured in oil, works in this spatial setting appear like protagonists on a stage, using painterly devices and tools to bend and (per-)form the medium according to their own ideas.
The exhibition is accompanied by a collaboration with the Canadian artist Jeremy Bailey, who on the one hand takes up Reiterer’s quest for the symbiotic linking of the analog with the digital, and on the other hand thematizes the upcoming fortieth anniversary of the Crone Gallery. Like Reiterer in his Templates, Bailey invites gallery visitors on a journey into virtual visual worlds that has its starting point in the real and leads into the imagination. A virtual reality app allows them to “beam” 3D-modeled avatars of gallery founder Ascan Crone and deceased artists, from the gallery program such as Hanne Darboven, Martin Kippenberger, Darrel Ellis, and Anne Loch into the exhibition.
By scanning QR codes integrated into Reiterer’s floor work, the rendered figures appear on the cell phone display. They move through the gallery space and interact with the exhibition objects, which were also modeled and animated for the app.
In this way, Jeremy Bailey not only extends the exhibition into digital space, he also approaches it with a wink. Although Reiterer’s works play the main role simply by virtue of their additional presence, they are under constant observation by the avatars from the gallery’s longstanding program—which might refer humorously to the “burden” of art history as a self-referential commentary.
Stefan Reiterer was born in 1988 in Waidhofen an der Thaya in Austria and studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. His works are in the collection of the Federal Republic of Austria, the Belvedere Vienna, and the Landessammlung Niederösterreich. His works have been shown in numerous international exhibitions, including São Paulo, Mexico City, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Prague, Berlin, and Porto. Most recently, Reiterer was involved in the Tuesday@Secession series at the Vienna Secession.
Jeremy Bailey was born in 1979 in Toronto, Canada, and is a self-proclaimed Famous New Media Artist. Bailey has performed and exhibited in various venues all over the world, from bathrooms in Buffalo to museums in Moscow. Morgan Quaintance (Rizome) says about him: “Since the early noughties Bailey has ploughed a compelling, and often hilarious, road through the various developments of digital communications technologies.”. In 2021 Jeremy Bailey and Stefan Reiterer published their first collaborative project on youar.store.