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Dr Martin Hochleitner is an art historian and director of the Salzburg Museum.




For nearly two decades, Austrian artist Robert Schuster’s attitude to art has consistently been to demonstrate just what painting is capable of. His work to date manifests an open, experimental approach exploring all aspects of the visual complex that is painting and carrying out a kind of open research into fundamental questions about the nature of painting and how it has functioned historically.

In line with Jens Peter Koervers’s analysis [1] (published in 2000) of the basic characteristics of
‘new painting’, Robert Schuster’s work features a reflected visual awareness that painting does
not conceive what are almost self-evidently called ‘pictures’ as something handed down by
tradition but is conscious of their conditionality. Moreover, Schuster’s visual range comprises a
variety of differentiated production  processes and materials-analytical insights that are
tantamount to a visualisation of different methods in the process of creating pictures.

In his synthesis of diverse influences, the basic attitude of Robert Schuster as a painter is most easily comparable with the artistic work of Bernhard Frize. Both paint pictures that relate to ideas, though not in the sense that these pictures depict, illustrate or signify particular ideas. According to Otto Neumaier, they relate to ideas in the sense that ideas of pictorial creation are rendered visible by the various pictures. The work of both artists should be seen as a response to the history and situation of painting. Both select elements from a pictorial repertory they have developed themselves and to some extent deliberately standardised, linking them and amending them to form a kind of open visual grammar. Says Korvoers: ‘The pictures thus produced are heterogeneous. They reflect not only the wide variety of contemporary visuality but are also graphic analogies of a present time that is experienced overall as discontinuous.’

After an initial pre-occupation with highly subject-oriented formulations in line with the ‘new’ painting of the 1980s, Robert Schuster turned to the act of painting itself. A glance at previous catalogues reveals a successive focusing on (and documentation of) visual structure, materiality, the presence of authorship, and the frontiers between painting and objects and sculpture respectively. Function and context has also been explored. What particularly distinguishes Schuster’s work is that his system-analysis of painting has always been linked with a continual extension of artistic outlook. His artistic interest was soon delving into various aspects of the economic and sociological phenomenon that is the art trade. In Schuster, research into painting could thus embrace both monochrome painting on canvas, as well as abandoning brushes in favour of rollers (in a craft context) or even the organisation of a theory-based event about painting in architecture-related contexts.

Despite this development towards ever-growing complexity, pictures themselves have never lost their prime artistic importance for Robert Schuster as factors in communication.  This much is clear from the drafting of the present catalogue, which is a masterly survey of his most recent output since 2000. In most of the items illustrated, Schuster works in PVC screen printing ink on plastified truck covers or polyamide screens. This specific materiality of the pictures (some of them very large) fits in very coherently with the stereotype linear structuring of surfaces with a variety of colour strokes. Sometimes however, particularly with the ornamental and organic and very rapidly applied expansions of colour, it goes over into a very varied interaction of natural and artificial.

Particularly the most recent works make clear the extent to which Robert Schuster can work with parallel pictorial systems without formulating his own formal or conceptual contrasts. ‘Being familiar with the manifold codes of the present day, he can switch very easily between the various pictorial areas,’ says Koerver.  The result is a comprehensive visuality that facilitates a differentiated reading of the pictures. Every picture appears to be both an artistic act and painterly situation, with the two gradually blending as you look. Robert Schuster’s painting is thus in equal measure a visual idiom that renders anonymous and is identifiable, arising from the friction between the analytical conceptual level and the expressive content, and this lends his work its critical excitement.

July 2004



[1] Jens Peter Koerver: new painting. Der Stand der Bilder. In: Frame, No 12 (Vienna, 2000), p. 36ff.

Robert Schuster artist Robert Schuster Künstler Robert Schuster art Austria painting Robert Schuster Maler
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