Denys Zacharopoulos

It was in the early Nineties, while visiting the studios of the Old Vienna Academy at Schillerpltatz, in the middle of regular student work, I found myself mesmerized by some strange large canvases. They were painted on an unusual grand manner. The kind of figurative painting, alien to the Viennese picturesque style, was in total contradiction with their large size. Nothing was inducing a monumental, iconographic, rhetoric or decorative program or attempt by the artist. I don't remember if the young student —the author—, was there in person at this moment or if, as the usual ritual imposed, I was following the Master — Professor Hollega— offering a visit of his class to the colleague I was in the Three-centenary House. But from that moment, no matter who was or wasn't there, the presence of these strange canvasses had an immediate effect on me. Any other discussion was interrupted. All of a sudden, I found myself haunted by a rare experience, which was associated, like a Freudian uncanny (Unheimlich), to the feeling of having been there before again like in another life. It was like the very moment I would have being affected by some early 20th century masterpieces. The sense of an immediate manner to mix natural perception of space with a public scale in a mental construction was like taking place for the first time so deliberately in front of my eyes. I guess this was Cezanne's claim "to make of impressionism a Museum art". The more I was looking around, the more these canvases in the middle of the obsolete academic space were escaping any recognizable influence. It was like seeing a Matisse large canvas in 1911, but nothing in the way to paint itself would induce a reference to a style or a quotation like it was part of the Zeitgeist of that moment to both, academic or wild painters. No distance, no fun, no cultural critic, no statement, no high and low, no cynicism, but just a large- scale figurative painting with a strong sense for clear colour, straight lines, free movement, direct gestures. All that was caught in one complex but fast way to grasp in a wide scale and a strong size a simple and unique image. I was amazed to the point I did not know if I should laugh in front of a forgery of modernism or to believe I was facing the works of an exceptional painter.

I had to leave the class undecided how I should make my mind or tune my eyes in order to get something more than this persisting feeling of a strictly open space on a completely closed surface. Arbitrary, fragmentary, intimate, expressive, these works were at one and the same moment naturally private and perfectly public. I couldn't understand if I was up to detect an abstract universe or a physical construction, a strong mood or an existential issue, although the manner and the scale were inducing a clear understanding or construction of the artist's notion of what a painting was about. The paint was light and fluid like in most major works of the early modernism: a fluent surface. The structure was determine in its attempt to go out of any univocal system of representation and on the other side, like in these preliminary moments or turning points in history, nothing was yet formalized on a style or a codification. The first reaction was as if someone had to find one's self assisting to a kind of "Anadyomene" Modernity. There was like era was emerging just "there", the way Botticelli's Venus comes out of the sea on a seashell, suspended between the world and the things, space and time, depth and paint. All at once, Matisse, Beckmann, Picasso, Bonnard, Kirchner, Delaunay, Picabia, Nolde, Leger, Kandinski and so on, where all squeezed on these large surfaces of the canvas the way people meet occasionally at a same bus or vehicle the canvas was to become. I asked to meet with Michael Horsky and had many discussions with him from that time and on. His sense of humility in front of the real masters of art was in perfect contradiction with the extreme force of ambition he was entering himself in direct praise with the real scale of things. His discrete approach, his real knowledge of contemporary painting and the honest admiration for the work of all good painters of any time and period —including living artists they were active, from the famous one to some unknown young fellows he was discussing in the art school— challenged real art.

The incredible thing for such a young artist of that time was a sense of ambition that was all on the side of the work itself, contradicting the general fantasies of carrier, success, easy recognition, sudden fame, they were affecting so strongly the sense of art (and I am afraid never ceased since). After showing in a prominent position his large canvasses in the show I presented under the title Spiegelsprung at the Academy, (as an open dialogue with the show Der Zerbrochene Spiegel, Kasper König was presenting during the Vienna Festival, with the aim to make a clear statement about the state of painting at that moment), I had followed his work with increasing interest over the years. We met often in France were he spend a good moment at the Domaine de Kerguéhennec in Brittany; becoming closed to many painters I was myself very attentive to. His work was developing in a solid practice, but for long he was very discrete about. He was taking more time to talk about other people's exploits and less about his own attempts. We went to Prague to see a Kirkeby retrospective, a Brandl, Wool, Oelen show, a Vercruysse installation in a church, and then, the fantastic Cezanne and Picassos at the museum. We spent many hours talking about painting. We went to visit studios and introduced me to many young artists some of which are really people to follow seriously the development. He participated in some group shows where he developed a great sense of a propos in relation to the place and to the group of people/ I believe most of which were made from artists them selves and less by curators or people trying to show "what's about". I do believe "what is there" was always more important to Michael Horsky, this is what slowly is confirmed with his recent work. When I see today what he has achieved over the years, I understand why he kept with such determination the dimension of time on his own camp. I understand the meaning of such a detachment in from of any exposure before having the certainty the bus has arrived at a station. Why the first station was not necessarily the one he was destined to. Why he wouldn't move before all these other people squeezed in the bus , the better or the worst, the masters and the slaves, come one after the other out and reach each one a proper destination. I understand how sitting there, thinking, looking out of the window, making plans and sketches on his notebooks, was a way to wait for him self to comeback to the same large size canvasses of the beginning as to a sort of place for it self that stands in the middle of the world, somewhere between people and solitude, an aria and a quarter, a neighbourhood and a studio, a city and a country, a time and an other, but not in an Academy or any kind of corporatist group, fancy gang or artists movement. There are not any expressions of individual dramas, as also not any secessionist statement of public distinctions.

I guess, what I was looking mesmerized during my first visit to the Academy studio, came to find a true scale and measure in the arts of our time, like real Museum art came to be in praise with the world. There is a moment, like in the beginning of modernity, where each one has to decide about his position. I guess Horsky came to the point his position is a personal one, is more than a moment of emergence of possibilities, more than a moment of youth or of freshness, it is a living and energetic crash with any conventional way of doing or seeing, understanding or saying, painting or perceiving. It is a crash like a car crash. The bus he entered at the exit of the Academy to go the way artists were supposed to go has crashed against the thousand of people's cars during the traffic hours of a to busy time for good painting. He crashed and space and time have fall upon him like the apple on Newtons head. He waked then out save and in good mood, went across the stupid landscape ignoring the thousands of cars and instead of waiting for the next bus, he continued all the way to a place that you can see in his recent works. A wide place that looks like a large canvas; a place no matter who is there or who isn't, there is a strong sense of presence, the presence of this strange canvas as it had had at the first time an immediate effect on me. Any discussion is interrupted since there is no time for words, since all of a sudden, you find yourself haunted by a rare experience, like a Freudian uncanny (Unheimlich), that gives you the certainty to of having been there before, like in another life. This place is like the very moment you would have being affected by some real painting in a life. It is the place of a first time even if this has happen to any of us before. It is though a place that makes appear a sense of immediatecy that mixes natural perception of space with a public scale in a mental construction.

It is as if a canvas could be a place where something can take place for the first time so deliberately in front of one's eyes, not as a spectacle but as a fact. It is like painting has to be, simple and complex at the same time. It is as anything that has "no title", just space and time, just an event or a fact that happen to be here an event in painting and a painterly fact. It can be only personal and at the same time it is your person that affects. This is what I suppose keeps make my appreciation of Michael Horsky's work so strong, that are as much mine as his, as much nobody's as everybody's, as much painting as event, as much uncanny and fact, as much there and nowhere. It is a good way to stand suspended between your dearest dreams and your worst nightmares. It is like all as it is like nothing. This was most probably what haunted my first encounter with his work, the strong sense of all or nothing only great art deals with and then there is no final word to such a dilemma, there is a crash as there is a long way to go. Michael Horsky has experienced both and still has to continue the way and expect the next crash. This maybe art maybe painting. Nevertheless there is both at once, breaking the limits of space to disperse the sense of plane, while condensing any visual development in a mental or emotional shortcut that seizes the viewer by the two ends. i will be always grateful that Horsky's works reminds me such a great possibility sometimes art has to offer to us, sometimes in history and some times in the present, there shouldn't be anyhow a difference between the one and the other. History is now as the painting also.