Heimo Zobernig Untitled 2007

Heimo Zobernig
Untitled 2007
Acrylic on canvas
100 x 100 cm
© Archive HZ

Installation view at Tate St Ives, 2008 six

Installation view at Tate St Ives, 2008
© Tate

Installation view at Tate St Ives, 2008 five

Installation view at Tate St Ives 2008
© Tate

Zobernig’s ongoing exploration of the grid continues in Gallery 3 with his latest series hung high around the room. Enhanced by the dark walls, their jewel-like colours and unconventional hang connect with both Viennese artist Gustav Klimt’s decorative application of abstraction in his portraiture around 1900, and the integrated art and design ethos of Weimar Germany’s modernist school, the Bauhaus.

Although Mondrian again is a source, these paintings are informed by Zobernig’s extensive investigations of colour theory and its failings as an objective system of analysis. Can one person perceive a colour the same way as another? What theory can make a completely objective abstract painting?

Zobernig in effect challenges certain historically proclaimed ‘truths’ about the purity of geometric forms. The series of diagram-like abstracts made in 1984 look at the way maps and systems might be used to create a totally objective abstract image. Zobernig turns this on its head by using references which apply to personal movements or journeys, places of importance or architectural plans. Here the artist tests the boundaries between a pure abstraction, functional map and personally significant work of art.

As discussed in Gallery 1, standardised ready-made materials are commonly used by Zobernig as a vehicle to reassess various ideas in high art. The Ikea Billy bookshelves are appropriated by the artist to echo the modular forms of minimalist sculpture, particularly the ‘Specific Objects’ of American artist Donald Judd.

Judd’s practice proposed to extend painting from two to three dimensions, in an attempt to reject the ‘illusionism, literal space and space in and around marks and colour’ that he saw were the ‘last relics of European art’. Zobernig’s objects, which in themselves are structures for display, become suspended between sculpture, painting and mass-produced interior design, as indeed is the whole room.