Just watching the world spin is enough to make you dizzy. You don’t have to be apocalyptically inclined to under- stand that there are no clear paths left. At the very least, there is a sense of trepidation that creeps up inside you, spreading through the inner walls of your body, gnawing through your brain. That long period, when everything was seemingly stable, seems to have vanished – it is gone, remains only as an illusion, perhaps it always was.
Austyn Weiner wallows in it, has painted it, that dizzi- ness, made livable, tangible. Her own and the world’s. The painter's first solo show in Europe, titled Vertigo, was on view at KÖNIG GALERIE Chapel from 30 September – 30 October 2021. She has visualized vertigo in large format oil paintings, in land- scapes that look like such and yet are not at all – because they elude what defines them. Directional planes, vanishing points, known order.
During the creative process over the last few months, the artist has consciously suspended laws, asking herself: What do they even mean, what do directions dictate, when what was previously believed no longer holds true? At the same time, the inverse grew within her: “It doesn’t matter what I do anymore, just more so that I do.” And that’s what she did, she painted.
The result is eight works which absorb and carry free- dom within them while simultaneously disorienting. While viewing, something happens that could be frightening but also liberating because it is electrifying: A vertigo takes hold, which one allows, contemplates, enjoys? It reinforces what is already rumbling and fermenting within.
The painter has used this sense of general disorientation, wholly surrendered to it, and found her own points of ori- entation in it along the way. In creating her landscapes, Weiner has repeatedly turned everything, including herself, upside down. No longer aware of where up is, where down is, what is right, what is left. In this absolute dissolution, she has found her own, consistently abstract language, which, one could say, consolidates itself in Vertigo.
In creating her landscapes, Weiner has repeatedly turned everything, including herself, upside down.
“The future is uncertain and the end is always near,” she proclaims. Yet there is a clarity to what she says about her new works, a sense of self-determination, certainty. “Everything is fucking weird. I am jumping out of my own skin and when I look to the right and left of me, so are they. So is he. And so is she. So is the world. These paintings should reflect that pulse.”
Born in Miami in 1989, Weiner lives and works in Los Angeles. She studied photography at the University of Michigan and Parsons School of Design before devoting herself entirely to painting about six years ago. Her work has been shown in a number of exhibitions, most recently in New York. In 2020, the year the pandemic struck world- wide, she exhibited in her garage, acting as artist and gallerist in one.
The year also left its mark on her way of thinking and being – when the construct of time abruptly broke down, when everything flowed into something else. When all the templates and conventions that had existed up to that point became blurred, somehow obsolete. And so, this time resulted in the culmination of various works: Video met paper, met the written word. Things seemed unfocused, quite consciously, art as a catalyst for perceiving events that were just as inexorably unfocused.
Like countless others, the thirty-one-year-old was alone with herself a lot during this time, in a mode that found her constantly deconstructing her own reality and ego in the world. She was so far away from everything ex- ternal that continually influences, unsettles and triggers. After months of isolation, she felt open and free, able to “look out” of herself again, as long as she secured an unbreakable cocoon around her body and mind so that she could be outside, she says in retrospect.
Weiner realized that she could protect herself and yet still live freely. And at that point, amid the still unsustain- able truth that surrounds us – whatever that truth may be, she also realized that she wanted to work solely with canvas and brush. Thus, Vertigo marks the inauguration of her new season. The one following total solitude; the cautious and, as it were, radical one.
You can see it in the paintings, the fearlessness that the artist drew from all this vagueness, because nothing is as it was anyway – and thus becomes all the more important, as Weiner says. Security in the uncertain. Determination wells up from every color pigment applied to the canvas in her work, also from every free space, the unpainted areas that she has deliberately left empty – just as she has per- mitted herself to be. There are no subconscious gestures, no unintended brushstrokes. No unnecessary excess. “One stroke could do what fifty could do” is a challenge she has set for herself.
“Everything is fucking weird. I am jumping out of my own skin and when I look to the right and left of me, so are they. So is he. And so is she. So is the world. These paintings should reflect that pulse.”
© All images Austyn Weiner
The painter listened carefully when her conscious and subconscious alternately spoke to her – and painted. She distanced herself at the right moments, letting the canvases breathe. Almost as if she had stripped down to where she feels herself, the genuinely pure. Without layers that con- ceal, obscuring things that might emerge, flashing glaringly in the echo of distraction, she seems to be quite contained. Nevertheless, there lingers knowledge of the uncertain, which also drives Weiner.
Time and again, she slipped out of her shell, only to slide back in with a clear vision. She turned the canvases with her whole body, standing on lifts and literally swinging back and forth to achieve shifts in perspective. For the de- sired sense of vertigo, following one of her guiding principles: To “risk it all and let your unconscious be your guide.”
“To one as to all.” Weiner devoted herself to each of her canvases equally intensely, often while listening to the same song so as not to lose the vibe. She would stand in her vast Los Angeles studio, all alone, often bathed in red light, in which hues dissolve and become worthless for moments. And she, too, momentarily dissipated in it, losing herself there, where she created something new.
A cautiously playful dance of confidence and restraint – zoom in, zoom out – a game of hedonistic abandon and vehement resistance. Inside and outside. Rhythmic move- ments leap out at you from the powerful paintings, includ- ing diptychs and triptychs, which reveal a remarkable bal- ance within themselves. The texture varies with the proximity, and radiates balance from afar.
For the work in this series, the painter has renounced implied narratives that should supposedly be told. In Vertigo, the unbridled energy of a fundamental openness to things that happen, over which one has no direct influence and yet still wants and must find a way to deal with, dominates. Driven by malaise, justifiably skeptical of the crumbling world, Weiner, intoxicated by the eternal uncertainty of existence in general, has gained certainty and painted herself free.