Lines, groove, scratches and holes show themselves throughout Anneliese Schrenks pictorial world. A sensual play of texture comes into being. Mounted on stretchers – thus adopting the concept of painting – the artist presents skin: leather hides. A former living material that through the tanning process was made durable and exposes its texture and beauty.
Since Marcel Duchamp, the use of non-traditional materials is not a novelty in art. This form of art assigns the artist with a new mission, they become a seeker in a never-ending stock of everyday objects. Leather is such an object. Whether it is the living room furniture or the car upholstery, we are confronted everywhere with this animal material, which once was the skin of a living being. And what does Schrenk do? She searches for this material, takes a flawed leather hide and mounts it on a supporting construction: the stretcher, which was traditionally carrying art or respectively painting. The hide and its texture determine the size of the piece of art. Inevitably a certain randomness resonates here, because texture and nature can only be determined from the leather hides that are available. And still: At first glance Schrenks imagery appears to be pure painting. Abstract paintings with fine sections and again vibrant colour shades. This is not surprising, as animal skin and also meat, are constant companions in painting. Especially if we look at meat, it was for example for Rembrandt, Soutine and also Bacon a constant measurement in the conflict of what was considered beauty.
Schrenk leaves out the meat, although the animal scent is still present when she translates skin, once covering raw flesh, into a piece of art. In her later works she gives back a body to the hides. She washes the leather, dries it and moulds it into a hardened shape. If lying on the ground or hanging on the wall the pieces of leather reach out, become organic or remind us of a dropped roll of fabric and some with delicate ends reach out into the space. Like folds of garments from baroque figures they seemingly swing to new heights and yet, can black leather withstand the comparison with these sacred ornaments? Yes. Because the tranquility that Schrenks work radiates, refers to this spiritual transcendence. An exciting opposition is happening, between vulnerability, black leather, lightness and also beauty, which gives her work a special depth leaving some paths open for the future. When reading about Anneliese Schrenk often the term brutality comes up… The skin and its vulnerability show markings of the past. This kind of injury is also not new, just think about Lucio Fontana and his canvases with cuts. Also Anneliese Schrenk for some of her works processes the leather causing further injuries by using fire, shoe polish and also acid. Thus she examines the leather and its behaviour and she accentuates – or „paints“ – on the canvas. The arising texture is thereby incorporated in her works on paper. Using the technique of frottage, which through Max Ernst was accepted into the canon of art terms, Schrenk traces different materials and textures. If pebbles or pavement, the graphite pencil by tracing the unevenness and as a result are giving the leather “painting“ a depth effect and a texture, that again form a link with one of the many definitions of abstract art.
Schrenk’s art takes on typical forms in art in order to partly negate them with non-traditional art material. The material being the main protagonist in her works, the artist can often only intervene in a peripheral way in terms of a predetermined principle of contingency. Partly the material can be moulded and again it cannot be. This creates tension: vulnerability against beauty, purity against the originality of the material – namely the leather hide.
Schrenk (*1974 in Weiz, Austria) holds a degree from the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna as an alumna of Gunter Damisch and Veronika Dirnhofer. She lives and works in Vienna.