Anita Witek has transported her display from the large halls of the Leopold Museum in Vienna and transformed the intimate space of l’étrangèrewith her latest exhibition, at 44a Charlotte Road, between Old Street station and Boundary Gardens.
Artist and Muse challenges conventional portrait art, as Anita Witek has totally removed the subject from the image and works only with the silhouette. The portraits in question are those of Egon Schiele and the enigmatic muse, Wally Neuzil the “Viennese Mona Lisa”.
Anita Witek’s display is inspired by Egon Schiele’s works Self-Portrait with Chinese Lantern Plant and Portrait of Wally Neuzil. Egon Schiele and Wally Neuzil’s turbulent relationship is borne out in the complex, multi-layered exhibit; a display in division and reunion of two people.
Anita Witek has removed the subject of the paintings, as is her method, and uses the silhouette of the absent subject, which is dissected and reassembled into an encompassing display. For many years Wally was simply an anonymous subject of Schiele’s paintings, something that is largely unknown in 2018; Anita Witek’s use of the anonymous silhouettes of Schiele and Neuzil has perhaps returned some of this anonymity.
Speaking at l’étrangère this week, Anita tells me about how she created the display, (speaking about the portraits that Schiele had painted of Wally Neuzil and himself);”I was detaching their representational shapes, from the posters leaving the backgrounds behind and then assembling these backgrounds on the margins of where the 2 figures where cut out. I was closing the voids that the disappearance had caused to see what kinds of shapes will occur.”
Anita’s reinvention of Egon Schiele’s work has lost none of the emotional depth in these paintings; “By fusing the backgrounds of these 2 images I wanted to close a gap or even draw an analogy to fill in the void about their relationship that had been filled with many stories and anecdotes and the images that he painted of her-but no clarity of what kind of life these 2 people had really spent together.”
Hyper-inflated images are printed on billboard paper and draped across the intimate setting, intruding the viewer’s own space and confusing the eye with the extra-large brushstrokes and pixels. The images are created using the analogue camera and the photomontage technique. Artist and Muse is not a display in a gallery but instead is created out of the gallery space itself which the spectator views from the inside of the image. This display is a living reconstruction of Wally Neuzil and Egon Schiele’s flare and love, a complex assembly of shapes and interpretation.
Anita Witek’s Artist and Muse will be on display at l’étrangère, 44a Charlotte Road until from May 10th until June 22nd 2018.
I would like to thank Anita Witek for taking the time to talk about her work, and also Joanna Gemes, the director of L’étrangèrefor their help.
By: Danny Holden