Margit Hartnagel © Alexandra Loock

Margit Hartnagel

I understand each of my paintings as an approach toward the 'ultimate painting'.

There isn't a single absolute picture, there are always variations, different aspects of the one, in series.

Over a period of ten years, I have explored the possibilities of an 'empty painting'. Nothing really to see on, but exactly enough so as to see this nothingness - or fullness. Something that exists - yet not fixed but moving. It is only to be defined by the viewer. Defined each moment anew as the moment that is - now. No story, no form, no message, no idea. I could continue in Ad Reinhard's spirit or in Mark Rothko's, or in Agnes Martin's.

But neither do I want to create an absolute, objective 'clean' painting, nor a painting as a relative, subjective gesture. My approach is to fix and overcome this dualism.

Translated: Axel Fussi

"Rest in yourself and be awake!" the artist calls out to us in one of her magnificent aphorisms, in which poetry and pigment blend in a fine way. In it, Margit Hartnagel proclaims an attitude towards life, as well as towards her pictorial world, which in their grandiose expanse signify a moment of stillness and a pause in the sea of subtle hues, but at the same time require a degree of highest presence and alertness, which only makes possible that experience which makes life an experience.

Anyone who gets involved will feel that Margit Hartnagel's paintings simply do not let go of those who have once let themselves be embraced by them. And so the title "dashing into the heart" is more than just a program. And so my little lecture is an attempt to interpret this touching phenomenon.

The poetry of the pictures wants to be explored. On the one hand we experience the abundance, on the other hand the nothingness, the hardly comprehensible, the eternal search, the nebulous, the unfathomable, in which we have been trying in vain since Romanticism, the actual prelude to Modernism, to cross the threshold, failing to recognize that everything - yes, where actually is? Margit Hartnagel loves and seeks such contradictions, which are perhaps easier to resolve in the nothingness of fluid color nuances than through rational argumentation.

The space in between, which Margit Hartnagel encompasses in her new paintings, is actually an empty space, a view into the unfathomable. Oscillating, no center, NO CIRCLE, as the title of another series tells us. It is a convergence of two almost spherical color elements that drift towards each other and yet never touch. Something like this unsettles us, pulls the rug out from under our feet, as it were, whether because we can neither find our footing nor recognize possibilities for orienting ourselves in any way. And yet it exerts a secret fascination and with it that mixed feeling of the sublime that Friedrich Schiller already described as a sensation between delight and horror, as an imagined bridge between the poles of light and dark, an experience with which artists like Barnett Newman confronted and irritated us anew in the 20th century - for example in his painting "Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue? - confronted and irritated us. To move in the space in between always means a bit of "walking on the abyss".

This sublime poking in the fog already fascinated the Romantics, and at the same time it opened the door to freedom for the visual arts, from which they still profit today. For where the unfathomable becomes the theme, all attachment to the object is lost, and with it the compulsion to create an image of a world that is in any case only illusion. Such art is at most concerned with the spirit of nature, and not with nature itself. It may and should be non-representational, since everything we see, feel, sense is anyway only a construct, a chimera of our being, like our thinking, which fails precisely because we are always striving for interpretation, even where it naturally fails and every trace, every contour is vaguely lost altogether.

Excerpt from the introductory speech by Prof. Martin Oswald at the opening of the exhibition "in herz hinein rauschen" by Margit Hartnagel

Mechtild Widrich:    
"white, fine, fragile fabric, stretched over the frame, body with an outer surface and one behind it," is how you yourself describe your work. What exactly is it about?

Margit Hartnagel: It's about "getting to the conditions" - that's how I put it. The starting point, that is, the conditions of art are to be perceived and reflected upon. In my case, the medium of painting. First of all, the material, that is, the body of the picture, the fabric or support, as well as the color, must be recognized as a prerequisite for a picture. It is this observation that I incorporate into my work, rather than something I make up - be it something past or something I want to project into the future. I want to make visible what I see in front of me at this moment and how I see it in front of me at this moment. But without staying with that, but rather as a starting point.

Mechtild Widrich: In your works, a tension is noticeable between the already mentioned emphasis on the material - that is, a certain self-referentiality - and the dissolution of this materiality. The individual image seems to merge with the surrounding space because it cannot be fixed with the gaze. The purely optical capture and delimitation is very difficult. The immaterial, such as the light, but also the sense of space, thus become very present. 

Margit Hartnagel: Yes, it is not to emphasize the importance of the individual image, but I try to relate everything. It's about relationships, between image and space, image in space and space in image - that's why I usually work serially and there are many similar images next to each other, which I arrange as an installation.

Mechtild Widrich: Is there a direct relation to the viewer and his perception? 

Margit Hartnagel: I can't pretend what would be visible. My works are only formulated to the extent that the viewer is challenged. The blurring emphasizes the process of seeing itself. In the moment of viewing there is an experience of now-time, one has to oppose the works in this moment, because there is no possibility to hold on to something optically. Everyone has to define the border for himself/herself, because I do not prescribe it. The border is somewhere else for everyone. 

Mechtild Widrich: It is defined by the viewer? 

Margit Hartnagel: Only recently I presented my black works to someone. He only looked briefly and then turned away with the words "I don't want to confront myself with that." I found that very convincing in this unambiguity. It is certainly a challenge to deal with the empty spaces and to confront them.

Mechtild Widrich: There is no clue about the title either. To my amazement, however, I discovered the very poetic title of a series from 1999: "Nie erreicht der Berg den Himmel" ("Never does the mountain reach the sky"). 

Margit Hartnagel: Hm. I always write parallel to my works, often in the form of poetic fragments. I write before the pictures. Sometimes I then use these terms, but I don't like to do that. For myself, lately, to distinguish the works, I've been using terms that are very mathematically abstract: BQ 1/26 would be number one from the series of brown squares consisting of 26 works, for example. I find the mathematical designation - apart from "Untitled" - most appropriate.

Mechtild Widrich: In earlier works, the reference to space is also explored much more directly.

Margit Hartnagel: Parallel to painting, I made spatial works. I hung large layers of paper, transparent through oiling, in rooms and created a situation in which one could walk around and always find oneself behind or between the paper webs. These picked up the movements of the viewer and it inverted the normal sensation of a space where everything remains stable and you are the only thing that moves. This created a state that was simultaneously limitless and limiting. Through the experience of fragility, the person is asked to come to terms with the momentary condition. Ultimately, the ephemeral and fragile is a liminal state.  

Mechtild Widrich: How did you then come back to the painting?

Margit Hartnagel: I'm no longer interested in this step from painting into space; rather, I want to bring the experience of being in a space back into the medium of painting. It is often considered progressive to finally move from painting into space; for me, the further development is to make painting in space as well as the transitions and dependencies visible.

Mechtild Widrich: Was this step difficult for you?

Margit Hartnagel: I often had the feeling that I had to justify myself for not walking away from the painting. For me, this question was very agonizing and I constantly questioned painting. Now, however, it is completely clear to me that there is this connection with space insofar as I make the experience of space visible in and with painting - without perspective.

Mechtild Widrich: To what extent is the moment of repetition significant?

Margit Hartnagel: The concept of time certainly plays an essential role. The repetition of the activity and the slowness of the painting process in applying the individual layers, which also take quite a long time to dry, is emphasized. This doing becomes timelessness. Every day a layer, again and again and again. It also has to do with getting up in the morning and going to bed in the evening. Again and again the same thing, and again and again a different one.

Mechtild Widrich: So a counter-concept to the emotional outburst?

Margit Hartnagel: In a certain way, the paintings come into being very casually. I have nothing to paint in the classical sense. I don't know the stress of not knowing what to paint that figurative painters often have. I always try to define what I can define. For five years I have been working mainly with the same formats, 45x45x6 cm and 120x150x6 cm, and the same material. On the other hand, I have to deal with my emotions before the picture, I have to put them away, because I can't put them away in the picture. 

Mechtild Widrich: You once wrote that seeing only begins when the gaze comes to rest. The sublime in its classical art-historical meaning naturally also comes to mind in your work. Do you see yourself in a development that includes Caspar David Friedrich and Barnett Newmann?

Margit Hartnagel: I think I am part of this development. This concept has always occupied me. When I think of the "Monk by the Sea," this picture still has a lot of something that happens in the imagination and is then depicted in the picture in a very narrative way. With the American abstracts, the experience itself is increasingly expressed and the image becomes autonomous. 

Mechtild Widrich: In the past you worked mostly with the non-colors black and white, but in your latest series you start from white and move on to very delicate hues that seem like an attempt to capture the light of the room.

Margit Hartnagel: In this context, it is again very much about the process of seeing, about seeing the light (in order to see). For me, on the one hand, these new works are again closer to the representational, less abstract than the black and white paintings; on the other hand, the canvas is very fine and the paint is applied with a lot of fluidity, so that no structure is visible. This makes them seem very immaterial and makes visible the actual thing that can be seen: the light itself. 

Mechtild Widrich: In a Benjaminian "distance, however near they may be"?

Margit Hartnagel: Yes, there we are again with the sublime. I want to produce the concrete and the immaterial at the same time. Sometimes I fear that I will fail precisely at this. Most of the time one is played off against the other, but my concern is the connection of the two. That's what my work is about. That's what I feel is contemporary.

Margit Hartnagel

1970born in Ravensburg
1995-2000Studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts, Wien at Prof. Hollegha, K. Hikade, F. Graf, Prof. Prachensky
1998-2001Studied Experimental Design and Spatial Art at the University of Applied Arts with Prof. Kowanz
2000Studio scholarship at the Nairs Cultural Centre, Endagin, Switzerland
 Study visit to Japan

Solo Exhibitions

2023Mit jedem Schritt vom Dunkeln her, mein Kleid sich blühend weitet, Galerie Fenna Wehlau, München
2022Margit Hartnagel: Malerei, R-Haus, Hohenems
2021Kaishi im Warteraum, Wartehalle im Bahnhof Schondorf
 Kaishi, Studio Rose, Schondorf am Ammersee
2020Arising Colors, Galerie Fenna Wehlau, München
 Die Fülle des Nichts, Kunsthaus Caserne, Freidrichshafen 
2019Papierarbeiten, Kornhausgalerie Weingarten
2018ins herz hinein rauschen, Galerie Fenna Wehlau, München
2017Space Between, Kreissparkasse Ravensburg
2016Alles ist nirgendwo", Villa Claudia, Feldkirch
2015kunstzeit 24, Raum der Stille, Universtität Linz
 Gelassen wirkt das Unergründliche, Städt. Galerie in Isny
2014Stille Gegebenheiten, Stiftung BC-pro arte, Biberach
2012last vienna paintings, Stuckgasse 11, Wien 
2010Light Movements, Remise/Galerie allerArt, Bludenz

Group Exhibitions

2023Begegnungen: Contemporary, Kreissparkasse Ravensburg
 Art Karlsruhe, Galerie Fenna Wehlau
 Kein Stern ist rot, Galerie Gundula Gruber, Wien
2022Maßlose Geschenke der Wege, Galerie in der Badstube, Wangen 
 Art Karlsruhe, Galerie Fenna Wehlau
 Sommerausstellung, Galerie Wohlhüter, Leibertingen 
 Das große Format, Kreuzherrnsaal, Memmingen 
 Malerei & Texte aus Philosophie (mit Roswitha Häfele), R-Haus, Hohenems 
 Selections I, Galerie Fenna Wehlau, München
2021Skulptur-Malerei-Architektur, Galerie Fenna Wehlau, München
2020Und plötzlich weisst Du: es ist Zeit etwas Neues zu beginnen und dem Zauber des Anfangs zu vertrauen, Dreieinigkeitskirche, München-Bogenhausen (mit Eberhard Ross)
 Die Fülle des Nichts, Kunsthaus Caserne, Friedrichshafen
 BILD KLANG/KLANG BILD, Galerie Gudrun Selz, Freiburg
2019WOMAN IN PRINT, Galerie Krems, Krems a. d. Donau
 Black&White, Galerie Fenna Wehlau, München
 Art Karlsruhe, Galerie Fenna Wehlau, München
201870. Große Schwäbische Kunstausstellung, Schaezlerpalais Augsburg
 BILD KLANG/KLANG BILD, Galerie Fenna Wehlau, München
2017LUMEN, Margit Hartnagel/ Doris Marten, LOFT + St. Gumbertus in Ansbach
2015kunstzeit 24, Raum der Stille, Universität Linz
 4 Räume – 4 Künstlerinnen, KUBA, Wasserburg
 Schwarzmarkt, Galerie Lachenmann, Konstanz
 "Baenzinger, Hartnagel, Roth-Studach", Galerie Kapfsteig, Zürich
 Gelassen wirkt das Unergründliche, Städtische Galerie in Isny
2014Kunst Oberschwaben 1970 bis heute, Schloss Achberg, Achberg
2013Wa – aus der Welt der Stille, Shiwory Gallery, Okayama, Japan
2012Japan – Fragilität des Daseins, Museum Leopold, Wien
 Montag ist erst übermorgen, Sammlung Kupferstichkabinett, "X hibit", Akademie Wien
 MA - raum dazwischen, Galerie Artmark, Wien
 last vienna paintings, Stuckgasse 11, Wien
 vier positionen, Kunstverein Steyr, Schloss Lamberg, Steyr
2011ON – positionen der stille, Galerie in der Schmiede, Linz
20092.Internationaler Adre-Evard-Kunstpreis, Ausstellung der Nominierten, Messmer Foundation, Riegel
2008Geometric Figures, Galerie ArtMark, Wien
 Pieter Vermeersch/ Margit Hartnagel/ Justin Benett, CCNOA, Brüssel
 artoffice under construction, 2-teilige Wandarbeit (Moving In/ Moving Out), Verbund-Austrian-Power Grid AG,IZD Tower, Wien
 "...darf es etwas weniger sein?", pp projects, Hamburg
 ArtmArt, Künstlerhaus, Wien
2007die Kunst des Liegens vor der Kunst, Designpfad 07, mit dem Designerduo Exner/Burzler, Atelier Stuckg. 11, Wien
2006THEAUSTRIANABSTRACTS, Arti et Amicitiae, Amsterdam
 Perspektiven 06, Galerie ArtMark, Wien
2005"Margit Hartnagel/Barbara Höller", Galerie Wolfrum, Wien
 Vienna Transit, Kunsthalle Mintrop, Düsseldorf
 Offene Weite,grat/ Stuckg. 11, Wien
2004Förderpreis 2004, Graf -Zeppelin- Haus, Friedrichshafen
2003Te Huur-Raumforschung, Wien
 Margit Hartnagel, gugler forum melk, Pielach
 Himmelschwer. Transformationen der Schwerkraft, Joanneum,Graz
 Himmelfalden, Kunsthallen Brandts Klaedefabrik, Odense
 art position 2003, Wien
 Abstraction Now, Künstlerhaus Wien
 art position at Sotheby´s, Wien
 danke für die illusionen, grat/ beckmanngasse 52, Wien
 Form ist Leere, Leere ist Form, Wittgensteinhaus, Wien
2002contemporary art feat. schwarz & weiß, Galerie Art & Weise, Wien
 continue.continue, grat/ beckmanng. 52, Wien
2001Hartnagel / Petschnig, Kanzlei Rothenbuchner, Wien
 private studio / open view, Studio Preysinggasse, Wien
 Female Sensibility, Galerie Charim, Salzburg
 quaterly, Sotheby's Wien
 Kunstmesse Wien, Galerie Charim
2000ab/ an, Kupferstichkabinett, Wien
 Diplome 2002, Akademie der bildenden Künste, Wien
 Curraint d'ajer, Kulturzentrum Nairs, Scoul (Schweiz)
1999Würzl, Hardi, Hartnagel, Galerie Tetrasoft, Bratislava
 Malzeit, Akademie der bildemden Künste, Wien
19987 Nights Gallery, Galerie Station 3, Wien
 Da - Zwischen - Da, Galerie Kunsttreff Küniglberg, Wien
1997Jam, Semperdepot, Wien
 Hartnagel, Watzal, Buchegger, Akademie der bildenden Künste, Wien
 87 x 55 x 22, Projekt der Initiative Rhein – Ruhrkunst, Duisburg
1996Pulverschnee2, Salzburg 


2004Förderpreis der Stadt Friedrichshafen

2022Stiftung Kunstfonds - Neustart Kultur Stipendium 

Public and private collections

Stadt Wien 
Kupferstichkabinett, Wien
Museum Leopold (Privatsammlung), Wien
Sammlung Angerlehner, Thalheim bei Wels
Sammlung Urban, Waidhofen/ Ybbs
Sammlung Stiftung S BC-pro arte, Biberach
Sammlung Kreissparkasse Ravensburg
Stadt Ravensburg
Regierungspräsidium Tübingen 
Sammlung Vetter, Ravensburg

Art on the building

Project 2019: Artistic intervention for the New Building of the Institute for Social Professions in Ravensburg
Redesign of a farewell room in the Barbar cemetery in Linz; 2016
Stained glass window for the church of St. Anna in Steyr; 2015
Glass windows for the chapel of the Benedictine nuns in Liebhartstal, Vienna; 2014

Mit jedem Schritt vom Dunklen her mein Kleid sich blühend weitet


arising colors

rushing into the heart