Safety Curtain 2018/2019

A moment of slowing down

Pierre Alechinsky: When I painted the picture – I hardly dare say it to the Viennese – it was a memory for me of the Atlantic Wall. The sea meant waiting for someone coming from the sea.

Hans-Ulrich Obrist: That’s certainly a fascinating way of looking at it.

PA: I don’t have any other.

HUO: So we have here the Atlantic Wall, and …

PA: … the horizon, the sea.

HUO: There’s no sea in Austria. As in Switzerland, the mountains block the view of the sea.

PA: The wave in the picture shows a natural movement. Apart from one place, I can imagine a head, a mouth, two eyes – in a fraction of a second.

HUO: A face.

PA: Yes, a hidden face. But I don’t ask the viewer to see it. There are many people who don’t see the face.

HUO: But they will sit in front of it for some time. During the year, the hundreds of thousands of people sitting in front of it for half an hour will inevitably see things. They will spend more time in front of it than they would in front of a picture in a museum.

PA: They are condemned to look.

HUO: They will see a lot. They can see a wall, a face, and there is the wave. All of this moves around corners; there are rises and falls, intervals, pauses, and tranquillity. And then there’s the interesting frame.

PA: The frame with these dashes, the track of the brush, is based on a strategic consideration and is designed to slow down the viewing time. As the main strokes in the picture are isolated, the different speeds can be seen. It is easy to see that some brushstrokes were done very quickly, and others more thoughtfully. But that is only recognizable if there is a moment of slowing down. I use this method almost systematically.

HUO: So the dashes are a moment of slowing down.

PA: Yes, so as to make the important lines readable.

HUO: Sometimes there are dashes, sometimes crosses.

PA: This happens when I lift the brush. I discovered this form in a drawing by Hans Arp. He lifted his brush as it is taught in the Far East, where every brushstroke has its own name.

HUO: I like the idea of the absence of colour.

PA: It has to be said that the predominant colour in the Opera is not very enticing.

HUO: It’s very baroque.

PA: The orchestra is the actual work here. At some distance from it there is a whole range of colours. I said to myself that the colours are the elegantly clothed women. In a moment the audience will be plunged into darkness and then the colours will appear on the stage and scenery.