Against the Pigeonholes?
In the twentieth century, Austrian art history has been characterized by the alternation of two major undercurrents.
The search for systematization, for more stringent geometric form, through interdisciplinary basic research of an almost scientific nature has only received the attention it deserves during the last ten years. Its manifestation can be seen in Jugendstil, in Kineticism, in postwar tendencies toward the geometric, the concrete and the conceptual, in logical positivism, or in the musical constructions of Josef M. Hauer.
Much more in the foreground, the Austrian art world has always harbored a deep conviction regarding the fundamental expressive merit of the Austrian artist, founded on Baroque painting, where the remains of the distant past provide seemingly inexhaustible material for art-historical exploitation, and on the perennial bestsellers of recent decades: Gerstl, Schiele, Kokoschka etc. In endeavoring to draft a precise outline of historical developments in Austria, one can certainly gain an advantage by interpreting these two undercurrents as existing within a “living, dynamic interrelationship between rational formalistic and intuitive expressive behavior.” (Dieter Bogner, “Konstruktion der neuen Welt”, in Der Kunst ihre Freiheit, ed. K. Sotriffer, Vienna, 1984, p. 163)
Ingrid Gaier devotes great attention and energy to exploring elementary formal problems on an interdisciplinary basis. Her work cannot be categorized according to established disciplinary boundaries or clearly defined techniques. It is readily apparent that her work ruptures the classical picture format. Her self-assured treatment of unconventional picture materials, objectively experimental and unconstrained, only finds its equal in the turn-of-century Arts and Crafts movement. Ingrid Gaier selects her materials and techniques – sewing, for instance – on the basis of practical considerations, without giving them symbolic significance. In her object-images she pursues a three-dimensional line: veiling, penetrating, layering, and always using the simplest techniques in doing so. Her compact formal language reflects the relationship between space and surface, and vice versa. Lines become independent, beginning to float and becoming recognizable as a spatial drawing positioned in front of a grounding surface. Ingrid Gaier is continually developing new modular systems, which on the one hand flexibly adapt to the necessities of transportation and exhibition site, and on the other hand reference the European tradition of the individual work and the imperative of originality. The artist’s drawings and graphics are presented in “module bags”. Often created in parallel during the working process, each of them brings clarity into the current phase of research with an expressive, forceful play of lines, while at the same time representing individual products of the work.
Ingrid Gaier has overcome the traditional separation of the two systems that have so long dominated Austrian art history in a manner that is unspectacular and seems self-evident – unspectacular thanks to a rootedness in well-founded work, free of speculation.
Sophie Geretsegger 1998