Hugo Markl’s oeuvre is inspired by his own, first-hand life experiences, rather than by philosophical questions and theoretical answers. He turns impressions and materials that captivate and preoccupy him, positively or negatively, into art. Complying with systems and rules is not an issue in his artistic practice, nor is referring to the media. What matters to him is how he can bring endlessly debated topics and authentic materials into a much more direct form without allowing the slightest omission. Since Hugo Markl does not consider himself a studio-based artist, his works always come into existence in the very place he happens to be. In the same way, Markl believes that making art is less about the approach, place or result than it is about the actual person standing behind a piece of art.
On the occasion of our exhibition in Zurich, Hugo Markl presents two groups of works that reflect the title of the show, BROWN. The 59-piece series brown (2004) is based on collages which the artist originally created on brown paper, composing them from both pre-found and collected print-media material. The collages, in turn serving as subjects, were then photographed. In a further step, these c-prints and scans, integrally conceived in the same mid format, were mounted on aluminum and framed. The framing itself does not only intensify the content of the works, but it is also an essential part of their presentation. The smooth, regular surface, the throughout identical format, as well as the rhythmically uniform hanging of these works are all key elements for their reception. Furthermore, the works are named alphabetically after North American states, such as Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, or Arkansas. At first sight, the material used for the brown series seems to relate a straightforward picture story. Yet, it is exactly against this impression that the artist struggles by breaking through stereotyped narratives and assembling these images to form some kind of direct realism. The works hold a mirror up to the Western consumer society, showing just how much our lives are influenced, or even determined, by money, luxury goods, sex, and status symbols.
Being a long-term project, the brown works were not made with a specific intention but, as Hugo Markl explains, rather because the material had already been there. By completely reworking the originals, Markl gave them a new form. The incentive for such a revision often comes from a feeling of dissatisfaction with what has already been produced, and with a desire to change the existing object. These pre-produced and pre-found images reveal human yearnings and motives dominating the lives of our society’s individuals. Or at least, this is what the viewer is supposed to see. Hugo Markl was intrigued by this image material because while it strongly purports, on the surface, to defy conventions without leaving anything out, it does hardly cater for the actual, real hopes and needs of man. The artist attempts to question these stereotyped, conventionalized views by looking at them from a different angle, adding a great touch of humor.
In the same exhibition room, Hugo Markl shows a symbiosis of sculpture, architecture, and nature with a series of recent bronze sculptures titled Vertikales Erdarmloch (literally ‘vertical earth arm hole’). These works are moulds of the artist’s arms, directly modeled into the soil with the utmost precision, cast in bronze to become highly naturalistic sculptures. Seen as a statement, they may as well function outside a natural context. What initially appears to be a fairly conventional work eventually turns out to go beyond the scope of conception.
GHOSTSHEETS brown (2006) is a multi-piece series of single works, each of which consists of four colored pencil drawings on paper put together in one frame. These GHOSTSHEETS are variations of linear color experiments and rhythmic compositions, establishing a random range of colors and movements. It is an experimental work that seeks to assign sounds and noises naturally filling the space during the creative process to certain, albeit arbitrarily determined, combinations of lines and colors, which could be defined as an ‘acoustic-graphic work of translation’. The artist starts at one point and lets the work happen. Where this might lead, and what the final result might look like, can be fathomed subjectively and individually.