C H R I S T O P H K I E F H A B E R
"[Kiefhaber] soon realized that every good painting is a painting about paintings, that good art is always derived from the creative individual confrontation with the history of art to the present day, that there are no 'original geniuses.'"
- Philipp Maurer
Landau Contemporary is proud to present a solo online exhibition of works by Austrian artist, Christoph Kiefhaber.
Kiefhaber's narrative talent, combined with his exceptional creativity and symbolic gestures, leads us on a journey through ancient and dream-like worlds.
The message in Kiefhaber's artistic output is very important to the artist, and so critical is his ambition to communicate the symmetry between history, literature, art and our state of being that it has been an obsessive objective throughout his career.
Kiefhaber’s fusion of playfully deconstructed architectural, rhythmic, archeological and lyrical forms in prismatic arrangements of pure and modulated colours is a trademark that makes him one of the most intriguing Austrian artists of his generation.
Christoph has been a dear friend of Alice and myself for more years than I care to remember...I look forward to sharing my deep appreciation of his work with friends and art lovers in Canada and around the world.
- Robert Landau
The great aesthetic traditions of Austrian classical modern art were already deeply embedded in Kiefhaber’s DNA before the artist attended the “School of Seeing” at age 13, a seminal international summer academy for gifted children under the curatorship of Oskar Kokoschka in Salzburg. There, Kiefhaber developed a particular sensitivity towards colour theory and application from the venerated Austrian Master, that he would carry with him throughout his career.
In the late 1950s, he studied at Dublin University, but the following year, he returned to Vienna and spent two years as an occasional student at the Academy of Fine Arts. Then, in the 1960s, he immersed himself in the works of Jean-Paul Sartre, free form jazz music, and participated in several archeological expeditions in Austria and Greece. All three experiences - philosophy, music and history – coupled with an innate sense of colour become the pillars of his artistic vision.
Beginning with still-life gouaches, inspired by drawings produced during archeological excavations, Kiefhaber transposed these fragmented forms, found scattered through layers of earth and across expanses, into paintings, unifying and fleshing out disparate elements into single entities and de-constructing the whole into parts.
For Kiefhaber, as it was for Hans Bellmar, the act of de-construction offered a renewed appreciation for the components, providing endless opportunities to combine and juxtapose elements, like words in a sentence, to reveal new meaning and expression.
The artist's youthful passion for archeology continued to appear in his later works, but these early explorations were followed by pictures of dolls and puppets. Initially, these figures were broken, damaged or destroyed, a reflection of the artist's cynicism at the time. Yet, Kiefhaber's paintings evolved into intelligent and light-hearted de-constructions of playful images as the artist gained confidence in himself and the world.
By combining his historical awareness with a playful re-imagining of identifiable forms, and the juxtaposition of contrasting elements, Kiefhaber believed he could stimulate in the viewer an authentic passion, fantasy, or heightened state of being by removing our natural assumptions and connections to objects; these re-shaped objects formed by the artist's desire.
"[Kiefhaber] paints moments in which Goethe's Faust would have wanted to remain because they are so beautiful."
German philologist and historian
Yet, despite the inanimate objects, there is a palpable sense of drama and theatre in Kiefhaber's arrangement of unified forms. His paintings have a noticeable stage-like bearing. The illusory three-dimensional nature of the figures is placed in a shallow space; no naturalistic background, no view of what lies behind; a wall of colour obscures the view like a curtain.
The artist's costumed puppets and dolls retain a sense of child-like wonder and unbridled expression, transposed onto the artist's stage. "They all, figures and objects, populate a theatre frozen in the eye of the artist."
Kiefhaber’s work of the 1990s betrays the influence of Pablo Picasso and Joan Mirò, with the disintegration of form inspired by Cubism from the former and the ethereal nature of the latter, which lent a dream-like quality to his work.
Picasso constitutes a central point of orientation for Kiefhaber, who wasn't interested in emulating the Spanish master but wanted to understand the artistic process, and by extension the nature of seeing; how the artist could use colour and forms like words to express the subtle nuances of seeing and feeling as if every contour and colour were re-shaped in the form of his desire. Picasso's work fundamentally helped Kiefhaber discover himself as an artist and give form to expression.
We also witness the prevailing influence of Miró in Kiefhaber’s work from this period, evident in the dream-like quality of his canvasses, the etching-like quality of his lines, and the predilection for pure colour.
Although Kiefhaber always held a sharp interest in Miró’s work, it wasn’t until 1993, during a stay in Barcelona, when he visited the Fondació Joan Miró's exhibition in honour of the artist's centennial birthday, that this interest began to materialize in his work. He discovered a newfound appreciation for the Surrealist master, and the indelible mark he left on the history of modern painting and sculpture.
Miró's dream-like world of birds and stars also precipitated Kiefhaber's personalized collection of signs and symbols - faces, leaves, moons, gloves – concrete representations of an unrepressed imagination, articulated through vivid saturated colours in a style that is a free mixture of optimism, joie de vivre, lyricism, eroticism and sardonic humour.
Kiefhaber's work is never static. He is constantly experimenting with new ideas, new historical understanding and new materials. In an attempt to re-contextualize social representation and identity through the lens of history, allegory and mythology, he uses a variety of modern techniques and materials, creating an unbroken link in time. These contemporary manifestations were not confined to paintings, either.
"Kiefhaber's light-hearted cynicism reappears in his pastels and in his picture diary, a sketch-based notebook in which he spontaneously records day to day impressions, experiences, thoughts and emotions.
- Philipp Maurer
With no preferred medium of expression, Kiefhaber uses his notebook as the basis for a creative output that includes graphic work, pastels, etchings, acrylic, mixed media on canvas and sculptures in ceramic, glass, wood and, most recently, bronze. Landau Contemporary is pleased to include the full spectrum in our collection.
For over a decade, the artist has worked in close collaboration with the world-renown Berengo Studio in Venice, Italy, to create Murano glass sculptures that transpose Kiefhaber's fantastical characters into real space and substance through the mastery of artisans who must push the boundaries of traditional glass-making to realize them.
Berengo Studio has, since the late 1980s, invited some of the most well-known contemporary artists to unleash their creativity and experiment with glass with Berengo’s highly skilled glass masters.
(Photo property of Fondazione Berengo)
Additionally, in the early 2000s, Kiefhaber created a series of etchings based on Greek myths that were given a contemporary update by the artist. With the Medea etchings, accompanied by a poetic text from Otto Brusatti, Kiefhaber brings the mythical woman to our times.
In these works, the artist reveals that the story of man is never-changing. We are always facing the same problems of hate, and the struggle for power, even if in Kiefhaber and Brusatti's version, Medea is given a happier fate; still in love, she escapes with Jason (Medea VII).
"Kiefhaber uses material of other artists and subjects them to a process of transformation which frees his material of its concrete historical density and makes it his own."
As the artist's studio noted in describing the Medea series, "We feel the joy of love and understanding. Man will always be dominated by greed and lust. For Christoph, there is just one hope: Art alone is rescue and freedom!"
Born in Neumarkt am Wallersee, Austria, Kiefhaber, at the age of thirteen, studied at an international summer academy held by Oskar Kokoschka in Salzburg. Following a period of study at the University College, Dublin, he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna where he remained for two years.
However, his bourgeois upbringing led him to become an accountant with a large firm while continuing his studies at the Viennese school of Fine Arts with Fritz Martinz. His early work is informed by the youthful archaeological excavations he participated during his studies in as well as a fascination with dolls and puppets that he playfully deconstructs.
His mature work finds its orientation in Picasso and Miro’s dreamlike world of birds and stars which Kiefhaber transforms into his own language of symbols of faces, stars, moon and leaves.
Kiefhaber left the corporate world in 1983 at the behest of his employer who became his earliest serious collector. His first solo exhibition was held in 1984 and since then he has had countless exhibitions worldwide. Today Kiefhaber lives and works in Salzburg and Vienna.
"Götter Helden Kriminelle" at Galerie Nöfa, Austria
"Nereides", Institute of Classical Archaeology at the University of Vienna
Presentation box no. 2, Graphic Arts Collection Albertina
Landau Contemporary at Galerie Dominion, Montreal
Petit Salon d’ Hiver, Paris, France
Salon International de l´Estampe, Paris
Graphic collection of the Albertina Vienna
Galeria Maeght, Barcelona
Alice and Robert Landau, Switzerland
Fondazione Berengo Murano-Venice
Galerie Ambassade Hotel, Amsterdam
Danubiana, Meulensteen Art Museum
Fields Museum, Chicago
University of Applied Arts, Vienna
Select Art Fairs
Art Miami, Landau Fine Art, Miami, Florida
Art Austria, Vienna
ARCO International Art Fair, Madrid, Spain
Art Basel Switzerland, Landau Fine Art
Art Basel Miami Beach, Landau Fine Art
Art Chicago, Landau Fine Art
Biennale dell´ Incisione, Mirano, Italy
Biennale des Antiquaires, Paris, Landau Fine Art
Expo Chicago, Landau Fine Art
Feria Internacional, Bogotá, Colombia
FIAC, Landau Fine Art, Paris, France
Fine Art Fair, Frankfurt, Germany
TEFAF Maastricht, Holland, Landau Fine Art
Vienna Art Fair, Vienna, Austria
International Art Fair, Hangzhou, China
Graphic Biennial, Varna, Bulgaria
PAN Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Graphik Messe, Dresden, Germany
Art Multiple, Düsseldorf, Germany
Arte Innsbruck, Austria
We thank you for visiting our online exhibition. Please contact the gallery to find out more about this exceptional artist.