Cadogan Contemporary is delighted to present an exhibition of new works by the Austrian artist Josef Fischnaller. Fischnaller’s artfully constructed photographs are inspired by the compositional styles of Old Master and Renaissance painters; to these, he incorporates modern clothes, products and affectations, such as playmobil models and body piercings, to give them a wry, contemporary twist.
Past works by the artist have included Blumenkaiser (2009), which he based on Friedrich von Amerling’s Portrait of Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor (c. 1832). For this, Fischnaller updated the work by having the subject seated on a 1970’s shag pile carpet with a copy of the German lifestyle magazine, Quality, placed satirically at his feet.
Entitled, Prächtig – a German word meaning magnificent – Cadogan Contemporary’s exhibition features two series, Renaissance and Flowers, both created between 2009 and 2019, in which Fischnaller exhibits other works inspired by Renaissance paintings such as, Bacchus (2009), a take on Caravaggio’s self-portrait Young Sick Bacchus (c. 1593). In Fischnaller’s his model adopts a similar pose as the original whilst locking her eyes on the viewer with the same lugubrious insolence, and yet he has chosen to depict the Roman god as a woman. Bambino Curioso (2015) where a toy crocodile bites the model’s finger instead of a lizard in Caravaggio’s Boy bitten by a Lizard (c. 1594-5), works in a similar way.
For these works, Fischnaller collaborates with stylists who produce the costumes out of contemporary materials, in which they are rearranged or broken by the artist to add a twist to the staging of the image. An example of this is in Ricarda (2013-16) – a work inspired by the Early Netherlandish painter Petrus Christus’ Portrait of a Young Girl (c. 1470) - in which the model is dressed in a neckpiece of buttons held together with wire, whilst wrapped in blue paper rather than cloth and featuring a tall headpiece decorated in paperclips and brightly coloured pins.
For Flowers, Fischnaller transforms classic floral still life arrangements by mischievously concealing small contemporary objects in their compositions. For example, in Lillies & Roses (2019), the artist disguises pieces of plastic, tissue paper and a handful of flying saucer sweets as flowers in the arrangement alongside tiger lilies and roses. Another work, Flowerpeople (2013-16), includes many unconventional objects such as miniature painted figures, an upturned shuttlecock, a toy helicopter and a flamingo drinking straw, all hidden amongst lilies, blackberries and other flora.
Influenced by his artist father – Josef Fischnaller, a well-known painter from Linz – Fischnaller discovered his own interest in art at a young age and began an apprenticeship in photography in 1982 which led him to open his first studio in Vienna in 1987. Following numerous exhibitions in Berlin, Vienna, Miami and New York, he moved to Berlin, where he still lives and works today.