Vulnerable, personal and personable, Gabriela Proksch lets us into her world, her pain and her strength. Her relationship to her surface emotes the struggle the pain can´t conceal. A lot of honesty here. Paul Klein, art historian, Chicago

Gabriela Proksch: The Art of Abstraction from Susan Isaacs

As an art historian, I process artwork both through it historical context and its visual elements.  Thus when I see Gabriela Proksch’s paintings, I also see their expressionist heritage, the historical precedents that include the great masterpieces of artists like Matthias Grünewald and the powerful works of Oscar Kokoschka, Gustav Klimt, and Egon Schiele.  I also think immediately of the work of certain United States artists, particularly William Baziotes and Archile Gorky (of Greek and Armenian heritage respectively). 

Gorky’s works are particularly on my mind as there is a major exhibition of his works currently taking place at the Philadelphia Museum of Art near my home. Reminiscent of Gorky, Proksch utilizes ambiguous symbols that dangle, float, and sway in a nearly liquid field.  At other times, her forms are more solid, as if the scene before us has become temporarily in focus. She paints images of time and space that move in and out of our existence, that nudge and even push us to consider important issues that are not overtly visible in our lives: imagination, sexuality, intellect, psychology, and myth.

Proksch’s expressionist paintings are powerful and ethereal, elegant and uncomfortable, lyrical and prosaic.  She is an intelligent artist who searches out the possibilities inherent in abstraction and does not settle for comfortable images, something that is without doubt more easily achievable. However, Proksch pushes past the moment of elegance into a realm where difficulty enters.  She understands the delicate balance of opposites that must take place in vital abstract painting.  She comprehends the tension that is required so that a work never fully answers all questions asked of it.  This pressure is at the center of her paintings; it is what makes them intellectual rather than chic, profound rather than superficial. 

Proksch also creates works, both large and small, that expand beyond their physical space. She forms atmospheric Baroque environments that are misty, even steamy.  These private worlds to which we have only recently ventured are both inviting and forbidding. The canvas acts as a window, and Proksch presents us with a view of a world where elegant and attractive forms contrast with awkward marks and disturbing lines.  She utilizes drips, which she often contrasts with organic forms, to investigate a private vision that obliquely suggests sexual organs, bodily fluids, and appendages.  Yet, nothing is literal, all is poetic allusion. 

Myth informs these paintings too--contemporary myth where meanings shift and the magical seems possible.  These myths reveal a number of potential truths about sexuality and repression, power and freedom.   However, Proksch’s success lies in her ability to suggest rather than inform.   Her works are intimate while simultaneously distant; she uses the language of abstraction to both seduce and deter the viewer. Her paintings act as a window to a different world, one that mirrors ours, but is more intense with psychological distortions, exaggerations, understatements, and whispers.  The significance of abstraction is its ability to investigate important human dramas through obfuscation and revelation. Proksch perceives this very well, and her paintings demonstrate this understanding.

J. Susan Isaacs, PhD

Professor and Coordinator of Art History

Curator of the Departmental Galleries

Department of Art + Design, Art History, Art Education

Towson University

Towson, MD, USA

Gabriela Proksch from Paul Lorenz

I came upon the work of Gabriela Proksch while walking through the Florence Biennale, looking for paintings to use in my discussion on abstraction in painting.  Her painting, ‘dimenticare, kennst du das Land…’ had all of the qualities I admire in an abstract expressionist work:  bold marks made with purpose and conviction, a unique sense of composition and special development, and most importantly, the knowledge of her media.  Being able to control the paint, and yet be confident enough to let the paint do what it does naturally: flow, drip, splash, is very difficult.  Gabriela balances all aspects and brings her own intentions into the mix as well.

Gabriela’s marks are both broad and encompassing, and also tight and precise.  Large color fields are brushed with a strong arm and large tool.  Graphite marks and lines scribble and scrawl, defining the lines and the poetry woven throughout the whole image.

Like her predecessor Joan Mitchell, Gabriela creates space by layering her marks, drips and runs.  Her thin layers of color define her actions and allow the textures of past encounters with the canvas to shine through and combine to create unique tones and saturations.

Paint is a luscious material and Gabriela loves the medium.  She honors paint by allowing its purity to shine while adding small flourishes to bring her ideas and purposes to life. 

The combination of all these facets brings fascination to the viewer and respect from her peers.  Gabriela Proksch brings abstract expressionism into the 21st century with vigor, purpose and poetry.

Paul Lorenz

Instructor, Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California

Fine Art Department

Abstraction and Interpretation

"Here is true art!

The art that is always - an answer - awaiting its question!" Keith Morant about Gabriela Proksch


Abstract painting, between floating, sketches and lines.

A painting is only as good as the way in which the artist conveys his or her message and lets the observer be amazed in his or her personal way.

In the case of Gabriela Proksch’s abstract paintings, this insight is perfectly comprehensible at the first encounter with the works. A spontaneous appropriation on the part of the observer cannot be entirely guaranteed, even though it is initiated through the senses. Painted messages require time, at times. In an era imbued with fast living, it does a world of good to find a painter who looks to the inside and the unknown to access authentic strength.Her paintings assert themselves in the world by the vigorous use of color and a strong artistic handwriting.

Just about every abstract artist working today knows of the art-historical connections and development processes of the great painters, but turns away from them as well in order to embark on new ventures and adventures and find his or her own expression. Gabriela Proksch, born in 1961 and now living in Jenbach, is one such artist who energetically charted this course and did so with a creative will and and sensitivity. She is a self-taught „career changer“ from the field of philosophy, inspired by the art of Native American and African cultures, a curator and mother, fascinated by abstract expressionism and research into human evolution. In her studio, Gabriela Proksch paints, either sitting on the couch or moving about the paintings, and with a long reed brush, she applies layers of color onto the canvas spread on the floor. To achieve a qualitative concentration, she uses a strong, irascible brushstroke, or she reworks the painting many times.

There are some fundamental compositional situations in these paintings. In particular with works without illusionistic or concrete depictions, one significant anchor for the eye is to find out where a painting encounters its own, inner boundaries. Questions define the composition like a rhythmic dance, questions such as were does the wildness come to its natural end, where does the denseness reflexively breathe out in the form of emptiness, where do clefts and breaks create spaces.

The works engendered at the start were expressive and abstract creations of colored space, in which the paint was simply poured out. But this soon expanded into graphics. Beginning with the “gedichtes lichtgebräu” (“po(e)tensified light blend”), we find traces that point us toward active interference, towards the image‘s space that was previously worked out in color, traces that are a purely surface phenomenon at first, but later appear with three-dimensional emphasis with a painted background.

The graphical elements here are still closed, enclosed in a form that appears organic and that recalls somewhat the graphical language of Joan Miró.

“vom zaubern und vom fragen” (“of conjuring and questioning”) reveals ironic flying companions with identifiable wings, and other curious messengers on a backdrop of often intense, luminous fields of color.

In “vom spinnen und vom fliegen” (“of spidering and flying“) the signs hover like insects in the partly bright, partly very dark color spaces.

Sometimes the hovering is tense. Visionary energies rise from the painting as lines or shapes. The space is open for movement and newly arrived shapes that suggest something archaic.

In “von toren und von leitern” (“of gates and ladders”) strokes are arranged in an upward direction like the rungs on a ladder, or gates are opened.

Pictures engendered in this manner comprise both ways of observing. The visible spectrum of color and the quest for hidden layers and signs. Opening up a picture, or in other words, opening a quality that forms the foundation of the picture, is a conscious act of disclosure.

The picture must therefore possess an inherent potential, which makes it possible to begin altering it. This thought is important insofar as it suggests to us the manner in which the artistic work is being done. The hand paints, the eye sees, the mind determines.

The cross-section of works from 2005 to 2007 shown here prove the resilience of a cleverly chosen concept, yet one that is open by its very nature. The paintings by Gabriela Proksch, from small to large, on canvas, wood, or paper, are governed by certain principles, the multilayered quality of the paint, the continuous dialog between the painted and the drawn, between facts made real by the hand and the graphical hints. This seduces the observer to take part in an abstract painting experience, yet one that is understood as dialectical – as an event and a trigger. Immersed as they are in a differentiated and multilayered world of colors and sound, these works possess graphical abbreviations, traces, intervals and movement. Any attempt to read the sigils and the scribbled lines will produce no meaning, since they have been set down autonomously, in the moment. Thus, these pictures point to a pictorial and partial impression and imprint of a world of the third kind, they encourage one to find and concentrate, to deliberate subjectively, in a similar manner as is done with poetry.

There are different stylistic strategies. The generally fundamental relationship between the graphical and the painted is the common denominator. The graphical dimension makes use of both lines and surfaces Tachist figures delimit themselves from the picture‘s background without communicating a sense of depth perception. On the other hand, Proksch applies line-like elements autonomously, as an informal spoor. Graphical elements are used as symbolic elements and have a primeval character, they emphasize, give form and perhaps even unlock a magical imprint or generate a touch of humor. In some of the paintings the pictorial language is like a silhouette.

The paint applied onto the canvas in various chromatic gradations generates an intensive, spatial luminosity that captures the attention of the observer. The experience of the color is atmospheric, it must be seen in condensed form as a reflection of light and color from the respective season during which the picture was actually painted.

Because of its intrinsic color structure, the paint form actually gains physicality in some of the paintings, while that which is created from the lines continues to act flatly and reappears on various layers and in differing color qualities. The relationship between the painted and the drawn is on the one hand harmonious, and on the other hand a source of tension. But there is always space for both in these balanced, yet varying compositions.

With her mighty paintings, Gabriela Proksch establishes a highly knowledgeable counterpoint to the dazzling. Her pictorial spaces and shapes suggest a kind of view into the process – without having to do much to generate very visual analogies and associations with the observer – a philosophical challenge for human thinking, feeling and action. The artistic expression is often inspired from mythological sources and strong impressions from nature, and is processed in a kind of poetic automatism that reveals no narrative character. She paints with a lot of focus on the attraction, the moving, the tension and change potential of the act of painting itself, and employs the confusion created by conscious application of contradictions to break through harmonies. Little strokes and insect-like or organic spots from the surface of the painting emphasize the at times wild, at other times bizarre, still at other times the original form that can still be sensed, and hence an antithetical concept that opens itself to the viewer. This not only frees that which is past and hidden through the process of revealing underlying layers of paint and layers that were painted over others, but it also expresses communication in the form of circular questions and impulses.

These terms do say a lot, but they do not cover everything. The secret side to Gabriela Proksch’s painting is the one that is found in her own, searching encounter with the paintings. Pertinently, the artist discovers herself in the Cy Twombly quote: “For myself the past is the source (for all art is vitally contemporary).” (From “The Wisdom of Cy Twombly,” monograph by Richard Leeman on the American artist).

Claudia Nitschke

Salzburg am 13.07.2007


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