Johanna Kandl's images draw their vexing effect and also at times their strange humor from the rift between the suggestive forces of global capitalism and a pathetic life reality. “I enjoy the fact that there is a rift between image and text.” The painting The Missing Guardian after which the exhibition is named shows two men, both wearing business suits and in a very good mood, standing in front of a sales stand. Investors? Social descendants? New moderation?
Other works address the artist's own past, depicting the façade of her parents' paint shop on Brünnerstrasse with signs advertising brands no longer existing today. The marginal small businesses make frequent appearances in her compositions with only the geographical coordinates changing: Viktor Adler market in Vienna, Belgrade, Baku, Ukraine, Bosnia, Karl-Marx Allee in Berlin. It is this world undergoing transformation that Johanna Kandl has captured in small sections of reality.
Her works are anything but abstract which also holds true for the process of their production. The artist usually begins with photographs that she or her husband Helmut Kandl has made. The global archives of imagery, whether supplied from the Internet of from journals, are of no interest to her. Art is an avowal to the particular, to narrative fragments that cannot be arranged to form a large narration but rather stick in a state of the chthonic.
The present-day economic crisis is playing into the hands of Johanna Kandl's modules of world interpretation in the sense that it retroactively adds a negative energy to the text-image combinations. Now it is not about a disproportionate relation between a super-capitalism that is triumphantly gesturing with its slogans and rhetorical expressions of pathos and its less capital-intensive marginal locations but about a universal dystopia.
Capitalism is the first case of a blaming rather than repenting cult, as Walter Benjamin wrote in 1927 in a text that is still worth reading today: “The nature of the religious movement which is capitalism entails endurance right to the end, to the point where the universe has been taken over by that despair which is actually its secret hope. Capitalism is entirely without precedent, in that it is a religion which offers not the reform of existence but its complete destruction.”
A large-format painting, very thin, almost painted in the grisaille style, depicts a huge number of sacral figures at a stand in Medujgorje. Next to it there is a piece on “Pyramid Games” and the “Pyramid” of Visoko in Bosnia where small tourism has been developing in recent years. A Bosnian living in exile disseminated the theory that the city hill was a pyramid – the oldest and largest in the world.
One video shows the Piazza in Loreto, a Madonaro (street painter), Maltese nuns, a colorful Fiat sports car being blessed, a swarm of bees which on Pentecost Sunday punctually landed on a fountain figure and transformed it into a swarming, amorphous mass.
For the video Brünnerstraße 165 in 2008 Johanna stepped again into the garden pond located behind her family’s shop. You see the family being filmed by her father with an 8 mm camera.
Johanna Kandl’s reports on the periphery of the world and on the end of an epoch are attempts to translate the world in which we live – whose visual substrates spin about us as serial images from the media – into a state of lasting imagery, epigrammatically. Painting has more plasticity than photography – and at the same time it should be recognizable in terms of its illusionistic character. It is a subtle tight rope walk which when successful is able to establish an ontology of instability. “Sometimes history catches up with you,” as Johanna Kandl says. “Maybe my work assumes more clarity as a result of the crisis. It’s different in any case.”