Since January 14, Vienna’s private art club Art9Teen has been showing installations and paintings by the artist Birgit Reiner, who was born in Sibiu, Romania in 1977, under the title “Cushioned Clouds”. In her work, Reiner analyzes the two great Viennese personalities of the 20th century – Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and Sculptor Franz West. Even though the two could hardly be more different, Reiner is tempted to work out the similarities in the two concepts and to interpret them in her works. Reiner gives mythology a pragmatic value in order to get out of one’s own fears and neuroses. Her symbols are tangible, real things. This leads to the portrait of a New York hotel chair with real mold stains, which is of course reminiscent of Franz West. “Especially today we can no longer deny religious mythology, as Freud did, or ridicule it, as we find West doing,” says Reiner, explaining her symbols of the ornamented and patterned armchairs, couches, armchairs, canapés, chaiselongues and always air mattresses. “Our cozy but hypocritical world comes in the suffocating design “Made in China”, sometimes neoclassical in brocade and plush, and in the style of the Venetian Renaissance, sometimes again dissolving abstract.”
In her technique, too, Reiner repeatedly refers to the Venetian Renaissance with its Byzantine influences. In the old tradition, the absorbency of the canvas is treated with champagne chalk and rabbit bones are cooked to glue. The upholstery, brocade and silk have a convincing texture and structure and come in exceptionally solid, strong colors. “I studied the brocade museum in Venice,” she admits. The burlesque upholstery is reminiscent of brothels from the early art-noveau period and is repeatedly linked to questions of mythology, which deal with the fallen woman but also with freedom and self-determination of women. This is how archetypal stories emerge, for example Lilith, Adam’s first wife who was cast out of the same clay as he was, or Guinevere, King Arthur’s wife, whose love for Arthur’s knight Lancelot led to the downfall of the empire.
In the more recent works, Reiner exchanges the plush armchairs for air mattresses, inflatable guest beds and armchairs, which have been the central point of her painting over the past two years, but also of her installations.
“So we are busy with ourselves and our navel gazing to the point of hysteria and the world is burning around us. The puffy clouds hardly give a foothold” and become the symbol of a society that has lost its grip on the ground. “We submit to the dictatorship of leisure activities, chill, with the air mattress on an unsafe balance, adrenaline relaxed. And in doing so, we are supplanting the global water shortage,” adds Reiner.
In her installations of inflatable armchairs and guest beds, the individual objects are emphasized in their haptic physicality and yet Birgit Reiner surprises. Depending on the structure of the material, the sprayed surfaces look shiny chrome or velvety fibrous. We glue our neuroses and hysterias together with gold and silver. Reiner alienates the objects from their original meaning and thus elevates them to works of art. The tension between people and furniture becomes clear, between the two poles, the search for support and stability, and the fear of death and life.
Unlike Franz West, Reiner leaves it up to the audience how to deal with the object, she doesn’t ask you to carry it around, but goes one step further, the questioning look alone symbolizes the silent scream of an apathetic society, glued with flashing glitter and shine.
“Reiner provokes because she digs and thinks more deeply in her analysis than most, and because her social criticism starts with a common sense that gives space and meaning to the inexplicable, to mythology and religion. Birgit Reiner is therefore a chronicler of our time like no other,” says the gallery owner and curator Thomas Emmerling, describing the work. “Her craftsmanship, the security of her lines, the permanent search and stepping back behind the work, the constant striving to further develop her own work, make her one of the great discoveries of the last few years”. Birigt Reiner studied art at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf with Markus Lüpertz, Andreas Schulze and Herbert Brandl. She obtained a Masters Degree at University of London.