Johanna Kandl: What We Paint With and Why Explores the Physical Dimension of Artworks

What We Paint With and Why is a catalog publication of artist Johanna Kandl’s work, published on the occasion of the exhibition Johanna Kandl. Material. What We Paint and Why, currently taking place at the Orangery of the Lower Belvedere in Vienna.  What makes the publication truly special, is the hardcover made of linen which is hand-painted by the artist herself, making each of the produced 800 copies unique.

Johanna Kandl What We paint With and Why book
© Belvedere Wien (Foto: Johannes Stoll)

Kandl focuses on the haptic quality of artworks, the substance that is visible and touchable

Viennese artist Johanna Kandl has strong ties to the physical aspects of fine art through her original training as a conservator and her family background of paint producers and dealers. Having always been fascinated by colors, pigments and their history, Kandl focuses on the haptic quality of artworks, the substance that is visible and touchable, not solely the subject matter of the work. Her research of organic and inorganic painting materials has taken her from Hormuz Island to Sudan, and beyond.

The materials used in artworks contain the stories of that time – political, economical, and historical. The activities and personal circumstances of the people who work in the mines, in the fields or in the forest form a black spot in the cultural field of visibility, and this black spot is the driving force behind Kandl’s artistic research.

It’s impressive just how few basic substances were used even as late as the eighteenth century and what chemicals were available at that time: wine, beer, urine, eggs, egg white, rotten egg white – and wonderful works were produced from this handful of simple basic ingredients, – Kandl.

Johanna Kandl What We paint With and Why
© Belvedere Wien (Foto: Johannes Stoll)

The exhibition juxtaposes Kandl’s own work with paintings from the Belvedere collection

Kandl explores the physical dimension of artworks in the What We Paint With and Why exhibition, juxtaposing her own works with paintings from the Belvedere collection, a few loans, and with the raw materials used in painting. Together with her husband, Helmut Kandl, the artist explores the stories behind the artworks, documenting these fact-founding journeys through pictures, videos, photos, and objects. Works from the Belvedere collection and works by the artist interact with minerals, pigment samples, specimens, and archives, creating an interesting narrative that alternates between factual documentation and personal fiction. 

Johanna Kandl is a painter whose body of work references the world around her. Now, she pursues the material side of her media – its meaning and origins – and thereby also points to blind spots in classical art history, which in the past has often ignored the material underpinnings. Never before have the works of the Belvedere collection been viewed from this angle – Stella Rollig, Belvedere CEO.

Johanna Kandl What We Paint With and Why
© Belvedere Wien (Foto: Johannes Stoll)

© Belvedere Wien (Foto: Johannes Stoll)

© Belvedere Wien (Foto: Johannes Stoll)

The hand-painted linen cover makes each copy of Johanna Kandl. Material. What We Paint With and Why a unique piece of art

The catalog Johanna Kandl. Material. What We Paint and Why echoes the unique, infused blend of scientific research and the artists’ emotional and personal experience of the exhibition.

In the publication, with the help of specialists, the stories behind the painting materials are traced out and pressing social questions are discussed.

The massive 246-page book contains 430 images of Kandl’s work and research, printed on high-quality Munken Lynx 150 g/m2 paper, exclusively available at Europapier. The unique cover, wrapped in linen, is hand-painted by the artist herself, making each and every copy of the limited 800 editions an exclusive piece to own.

Available to purchase here.

When I think about the origin of the colors, pigments, and binding agents that are all found in a painting, a world map takes shape in my mind. In the exhibition and in this catalog I would like to begin to sketch this world map. Many other sketches and drawings will follow. – Kandl. 


Johanna Kaidl. Material. What We Paint With and Why catalog

Limited edition of 800
Available at JPC

Johanna Kaidl. Material. What We Paint With and Why exhibition 12 Sep – 19 Jan, 2020
Unteres Belvedere, Rennweg 6, 1030 Vienna

© Belvedere Wien (Foto: Johannes Stoll)
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