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„Exactness is not truth“

While pondering a painting by Rubens, a conversation ensued some years ago
in Brussels with Hannes Haybäck, former dean of the University of Art and
Design Linz, regarding the general possibilities of creating a truthful picture as
a painter. The picture, showing a barn with animals, appeared to have been
painted in front of the actual scene but that was not the whole story. Rubens
reportedly imagined his paintings, applying all workshop knowledge of the
time’s tradition. From a formal point of view the picture is incredibly built-up,
constructed. It is known that Rubens only painted still lifes when some parts of
his paintings didn’t work out as planned, to solve the pictorial problem. At the
University of Art and Design Linz it was customary to start from natural studies
and still lifes to gain pictorial insight into formal relations on canvas. To achieve
a formal understanding of the picture naturalism had to be overcome, and with
it all the student’s problems and misunderstandings. We discussed whether,
due to the spirit of the time, it would be easier for the students to begin their
studies from the pictorial elements of composition, such as point, line, area,
color, geometry, proportion etc. instead of beginning from nature; according
to the then prevailing view to refer to the modern, to the nonrepresentational.
But even if one selects this as the vantage point it entails the danger of ending
in a superficial abstract décor, much as the one of which Kandinsky warned the
Russian supremacists. Regardless of where the starting point is set, the truthfulness
to transform worldly content into a picture requires a personal insight of
how nature, the world in which we live, and the abstract, the pictorial means,
interweave to become a picture of worldly content. This is a very old, large
theme in painting, the large form.
No visual artist can circumvent this theme, as illustrated by the important works
of painting. After thorough natural studies Antonia Riederer has discovered
this set of problems for herself as well. In this sense the artist is confronted by
the origin of the work in every work and handles it in her way. Henry Matisse
once stated in a radio interview that “accuracy is not truth” and this truth within
the picture is what Antonia Riederer strives for. She has turned from the optical
impression of the world to the happenings in two-dimensionality. Riederer
applies large color fields, generous figuration, includes black as a color like
Beckmann and attempts to score the big hit. All the while she knows that each
creation has to do with both her inner and outer reality. Her art works appear
light but mostly contain much hard work, preparation. And this is meant in a
classic way, by making studies. But ultimately they are, even those by nature,
imaginary worlds created by an attentive view on the world, on its beauty,
ugliness, conflicts, also of people. Antonia Riederer is embedded in her social
surroundings, family, children and landscapes and from this obtains insights
for her paintings. This somewhat ambiguous absence of the big world, of the
city, allows her to concentrate on her art. Big things, interesting things only
seldom happen in the important centers, as philosophy, natural sciences or art
teach us, there these things are only processed by society. What I find fascinating
about the work of Antonia Riederer is the picture of people which she
artistically devises. It requires courage not to rely on current tools such as film
and photo, but instead, even if at first glance it does not appear this way, to
simply develop the pictures from the nude, from the figure. The same can be
said about the landscapes, still lifes. The painter is aware of the force of color,
flatness, chiaroscuro and of the line and it suffices for her as a tool, even if the
art of painting has been declared dead over and over, or sometimes pushed
from thought. “Painting helps me to visualize the essential”, she says herself
and: “Things seen or thought are transported into the picture through abstraction.
Thereby the object is not repressed – it is transformed. A language of form
develops, which corresponds to my perception.”
What Antonia Riederer describes here is the will, in the classic sense, to find a
picture of the world as a modern-day human, as a contemporary artist. In this
sense we never own art, not even the old art, but each generation must create
this inner picture of the world anew. This other kind of truth, the one which
Matisse speaks of, appears in her works and thus Antonia Riederer, in her own
way, participates in creating the contemporary picture of the world.

Robert Trsek