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Over the past few years Robert Schaberl has developed a series of paintings which are entiteled Zentralformen. These monochromatic pictures adress themselves directly to the nature of painting as a material practice, whilst avoiding the pitfalls of a reductive "minimalist" discourse. Rather than using this medium to create illusory space, Schaberl has opted to investigate the relationship that develops through the interaction of painting, light and viewer.

Whilst much contemporary painting finds itself in crisis, the rigorously condensed format of these works opens a rich realm of visual speculation. They do not refer out to, or represent objects in the world but, rather address themselves to value. The material of these paintings is rigorously condensed so as to focus on their very substance, the hue and tonality of colour whose modulations are given value through the agency of light.

The Zentralformen re-assert the authenticity of painting not as a narrative but as a connotative form; the dialogue on value embodied in the work proposes a correlation in other discourses.

Julien Robson



The "Central Forms" are intended to appeal at first to sensual perception. The viewer will be captivated by the iridescent concentration of light on the shiny surface of the picture. Once he or she approaches the surface this impression changes. What the viewer believed he/she saw is no longer tangible up close, since it becomes dissolved in color mass, scratches and reflections. From a distance what one sees is a color surface where light is concentrated in the center, resulting in a non-distinct, color-spatial situation.

The picture prompts the viewer to keep moving so as to be able to get as much information as possible from its' surface, the material and how light reflects off of it. He/she feels tempted to touch the surface, which reveals a diversity of materials but does not immediately suggest oil paint.

The light beams point to the center of the picture and trigger the impression of strictly concentrical circles. At this point, however, the sensual impression misleads the viewer. What appears to be a circle is, in reality, an oval. The center of the imagined circular form does not lie in the geometric center but outside of it – in the visual center.
In the "Central Forms" series, I am interested in tracing this visual center which is dependent on the color tone. When I speak of tracing, I mean that this visual center is not be constructed but is rather something that reemerges from the given composition of the picture. The American artist Agnes Martin puts it very succinctly in one of her texts: "We make art work as something that we have to do not knowing how it will work. When it is finished we have to see if it is effective.... Composition is an absolute mystery. It is dictated by mind. The artist searches for certain sounds or lines that are acceptable to the mind and finally an arrangement of them is acceptable... Composition and acceptance by mind are essential to artwork."

When the color palette approximated black, the question arose as to what "black" really is. In the process of working it became clear that the appearance of the pure color mass black (two different black pigments mixed together) was lighter than the color nuance resulting from the application of blue over black. This resulted in the fine nuancing of color tones in terms of their "brightness". The paintings were presented parallel to one another to make their contrasts visible. In more recent oil paintings I concentrate on strong colors and a polarity of the inside color field and the outside areas and the tension that arises in between.

All this research and the urge to brighten the colors finalised in using another new color-medium which allows me to build up coats of color 50-70 layers thick: It is a new series of paintings executed in acrylic paint on primed linen or unprimed raw canvas. The use of interfering medium pigments in combination with numerous thin transparent layers of acrylic color allow the paintings to completely change their colors, depending on whether one views the surface in the or against the direction of light. The paintings are highly sensitive to light changes and almost look like colored mirrors. The color field in between the center and the outside circle appears to be a colored lake or even has a certain thickness akin to plexiglass. I see my paintings as objects in space, objects without a clear color-definition: a painting is more than one painting because viewed from different angles it appears in a totally different light.

Robert Schaberl