Born 1967 in Brixen/Italy
Institute of Arts St.Ulrich/Italy
Academy of Fine Arts Vienna
1986 A-levels at Institute of Arts St. Ulrich/Italy
1989 Sculpture Department (Prof. B. Gironcoli) Master School
1990 Painting Department (Prof. M. Prachensky) Master School
1993 Painting Department (Prof. A. Rainer) Master School
1993 Institute of New Media (Prof. P. Kogler)
1995 Diploma for painting
Valetta, Ostrale Biennale, Fondazzjoni Kreattività of St. James Cavalier, found a mentalism II
Klagenfurt, Kunstverein Kärnten, Ahead of the game
Dresden, Ostrale Biennale
Brixen, Hofburg, Garden
Dresden, Center for contemporary Art, Ostrale 2015
Cologne, Dagmar Schmidla Gallery, allegory of the cave
Westerwald, Keramikmuseum, Ceramics of Europe
Feldkirch, Palais Lichtenstein, GrauRand
Bozen, Gallery Prisma, Humans
Klagenfurt, Künstlerhaus, Humans
Kiel, Kunsthalle zu Kiel, The Human Senses and Perception in Contemporary Art
Köln, Gallery Schmidla, The fragmentary man
Vienna, Leopoldmuseum, The Excitement Continues, Contemporary Art from the Collection Leopold II
Bologna, Arte Fiera
Munich, Munich Contempo
New York, Scope
Cologne, Gallery Schmidla & Voss, Ecce Homo
Vienna, Gallery Peithner-Lichtenfels, Recent Works
Bolzano, Galerie Goethe2, Summer Container
Braunschweig, Academy of Fine Arts, Entsorgungspark für funktionslose Kunst im öffentlichen Raum
Frankfurt, Gallery Artbox, Sculptures
Hannover, University Hannover, Entsorgungspark für funktionslose Kunst im öffentlichen Raum
Hildeseim, Kunstverein Hildesheim, Entsorgungspark für funktionslose Kunst im öffentlichen Raum
Bodenburg, Kunstverein Bad Salzdetfurth e.V., Hand in Hand
Nürnberg, Gallery Hafenrichter & Flügel, Soloexhibition Urban Grünfelder
Düsseldorf, Gallery Andrea Brenner, Paintings
Eisenstadt, Burgenländische Landesgalerie Eisenstadt, Grafics
Bolzano, Gallery Prisma, Künstlerische Grafik, Südtirol
München, Gallery Storms, Young Austrian Art
Klosterneuburg, Essl Museum, Conflicts/Resolution
Bolzano, ar/ge kunst, Gallery Museum, Idee Corporee
Munich, BCG, Denken ist Handeln
Ulm, Stadthaus Ulm, Central - Neue Kunst aus Mitteleuropa
Vienna, Palais Porcia, Global Fusion 2002
Vienna, Galerie Museum auf Abruf, In Südtirol, lebt in Wien
Krumau, Egon-Schiele-Center, Works from the Collection
Leverkusen, Museum Morsbroich, Central - Neue Kunst aus Mitteleuropa
Paris, Espace Ernst Hilger, Young Austrian Art
Vienna, Siemens artlab, Die Neuen
Krumau, Egon Schiele Center, Open studio
With Irony and Critical Reflection
Urban Grünfelder’s pictorial language is based on an alphabet of “monochrome human figures”, which, in all their variedness, embody human existence. Personally, he speaks about a register of bodily and emotional motions, grounded on intense studies of movement and body. Oftentimes, his figures depict people during free fall, in a moment of total exposure and sheer battle for survival.
Grünfelder’s bold figures seem to constitute a reduction to what is humanly possible: monochrome and graphic, symmetrical and perfect. They are icons which are applied in different fashion. When isolated, the figures represent the individual; in groups of three they symbolize society.
Grünfelder has altered his pictorial language over the course of the last three years. He maintained his eye-catching figures and monochrome backdrops – the spaces of destiny. In addition, virtuously painted naturalistic scenes now engage in a dialogue with his bold figures.
Looking for Freedom
A black dog expectantly is sitting on the lawn, untouched by explosion and the melting mountain. The scene, which is crafted in radiant colors, strikingly stands off its monochrome backdrop and axially relates to one icon: a human being in free fall, legs bent, arms extended and hands spread.
Wer mit Glas wirft, wird Scherben ernten
Two bees dominate the left half of the painting, on the right-hand side – hardly perceptible – a person steps out of the dark to enter the stage. He does not react to the toiling bees which unify in-flight.
Both paintings prototypically represent the artist’s new series of work. The eye-catching figures have adopted a different standing – they now serve as reminiscence of humanity. Grünfelder places naturalistically painted scenes in front of monochrome backdrops, combining them with his signets. The contrast is extreme and bipolar. The artist is aware that he confuses the observer. Having constructed bold figures as expression of reduction, similar to the consolidation of interior life, Grünfelder’s interest has now shifted to the surroundings.
Already with his work on sculptures, the artist has preempted the stark contrasts. The perfection of his sculptures is broken through the banal use of everyday objects. His ceramic figures are always naked and male only, convincing especially through their smooth surfaces. As with his paintings, Grünfelder’s work is about the Symbolic and the concentration on human existence. Similar to the figures of saints, there are certain attributes (a business suit, a bag with bread rolls, a measuring tape) which characterize his figures and provide them with their names and content.
In most cases, his sculptures are marked by their struggle in the complex world.
An armless, silver gleaming man balances some over-sized crutches in his mouth.
Man eats Suit
A man struggles to keep his balance as he is positioned in an exhausting squat, biting into his oversized pinstripe suit. Having lost everything, it is his “business camouflage” which remains as his sustenance. Armed with irony, Grünfelder reveals how much a person is able to incorporate in this world.
With Irony and Critical Reflection/PDF
Mit Ironie und kritischer Reflektion
Urban Grünfelders Bildsprache basiert auf einem Alphabet “plakativer Figuren“, die in ihrer Vielseitigkeit menschliche Existenz verkörpern. Er selbst spricht von einem Register körperlicher und emotionaler Regungen, dem Intensive Bewegungs- und Körperstudien zu Grunde liegen. Oft stellen seine Figuren Menschen im freien Fall dar, in einem Moment, in dem das Überleben auf dem Spiel steht.
Grünfelders plakative Figuren sind eine Reduktion auf das Menschenmögliche: monochrom und graphisch, symmetrisch und perfekt. Sie sind Icons und werden variabel eingesetzt. Vereinzelt stehen sie für das Individuum, treten sie zu dritt auf, dann symbolisieren sie Gesellschaft.
In den letzten eineinhalb Jahren hat Grünfelder seine Bildsprache verändert. Die plakativen Figuren und die monochromen Hintergründe - die Schicksalsräume - sind geblieben. Neu sind nun virtuos gemalte naturalistische Szenen, mit denen die plakativen Figuren in den Dialog treten.
Looking for Freedom
Ein schwarzer Hund sitzt wartend auf dem Rasen, unberührt von Explosion und schmelzendem Eisberg. Die in leuchtenden Farben gestaltete Szene hebt sich deutlich vom monochromen Hintergrund ab und steht axial in Bezug zu einem Icon: ein Mensch im freien Fall, Beine angezogen, Arme gestreckt und Hände gespreizt.
Wer mit Glas wirft, wird Scherben ernten
Zwei Bienen dominieren die linke Bildhälfte, rechts außen tritt aus dem Dunklen - kaum wahrnehmbar - ein Mensch auf die Bühne. Er reagiert nicht auf die sich abmühenden, im Flug sich vereinigenden Bienen.
Die beiden Gemälde sind typisch für die neue Werkreihe des Künstlers. Die plakativen Figuren haben einen anderen Stellenwert bekommen, sie sind nun Erinnerung an das Menschsein. Naturalistisch gemalte Szenen setzt der Künstler vor monochrome Hintergründe und kombiniert sie mit seinen Signets. Der Kontrast ist extrem, bipolar. Grünfelder weiss, dass er die Betrachter_innen irritiert. Waren die plakativen Figuren Ausdruck der Reduktion, gleichsam ein Kondensat des Innenlebens, so interessiert sich nun Grünfelder mehr für die Umwelten.
Schon bei den Skulpturen hat der Künstler die extremen Gegensätze vorweggenommen. Die Perfektion seiner Figuren bricht er mit banalen Alltagsobjekten. Die Keramikfiguren sind immer nackt und männlich und bestechen durch ihre glatten Oberflächen. So wie in der Malerei, geht es ihm um das Symbolische und die Konzentration auf die menschliche Existenz. Wie bei Heiligenfiguren charakterisieren Attribute - ein Business Anzug, ein Sack mit Semmeln, ein Metermaß - die Figuren und sind Titel und Inhalt gebend.
Seine Skulpturen sind zumeist Gezeichnete, die an einer komplexen Welt laborieren.
Ein armloser, silbern glänzender Mensch, balanciert im Mund die viel zu großen Krücken.
Mann frisst Anzug
Ein Mann in anstrengender Hocke-Position, kaum das Gleichgewicht haltend, verbeisst sich in seinen viel zu großen Nadelstreif-Anzug. Alles verloren, bleibt ihm nur mehr seine “Business Tarnung” als Nahrung. Grünfelder zeigt - mit viel Ironie - wie viel der Mensch in dieser Welt zu inkorporieren vermag.
Mit Ironie und kritischer Reflektion/PDF
Is it not true that minimalism is an advantage in order to cling to a moment, if you can include the works of Urban Grünfelder in this? The form of the sculptures cannot be called into question. Their statements are concrete and there are no alternatives left. The social and political reference is always clear.
Urban Grünfelder’s work is influenced by overcoming aggression, violence and suffering, hunger and excess. The artist exposes the necessity of the present time, the desire to revoke reality in the sense of justice, which touches every aspect of daily life, and contradicts the domineering culture of consumption and superficiality.
Urban Grünfelder gives his sculptures a deranged identity, like the anexoric in the posture of a crucified human with a sack of bread around her neck, a figure bent backwards, tormented and forced to endure a refuse bag projecting from the chest and attempting, with flowers in the mouth, to make the stench of our trash-filled society have a pleasant fragrance and taste. The artist refers to mental and psychic states in their most blatant form. He shows his audience the status of powerlessness adverse their own weakness. The onlooker attempts to gain distance, turning away partly in irritation.
Irony is taken to a moral extreme in the artist’s sculptures like the “Devouring crutches”. A man seated, without arms or legs, and with crutches, which reach deep into his gullet. The crutches symbolize a cross that is meant to suggest hope. Here, reality is the perception of the limits of our own physicality. Without arms and legs, the figure is incapable of using these crutches. This is a metaphor for a mentality, for humiliation and domineering behaviour and the true relationship of one human being with another.
The observer is unavoidably confronted with ambivalent feelings. On the one hand, there is astonishment about the unmistakable directness of the sculptures, and on the other hand, provocation at having been caught out. Urban Grünfelder’s sculptures are a reaction to the decadence of society and its themes. They leave the observer feeling moved and disconcerted.
It is impressive how Urban Grünfelder translates his emotions into the sculptures, superimposing beauty and imperfection on them. He underlines the strength of the face, the weakness, the shy response. Equally, he not only reflects through his sculptural positions, but also provokes partly because of their religious context.
Urban Grünfelder represents male sculptures with highly emotionalized everyday objects like bread rolls, suits, funnels, crutches, measuring tape, which reproduces the content and themes of the sculptures. They highlight questions about human existence and society’s behaviour. Since the beginning of time, mankind has been considered as the beautiful, strong lineage. This has changed so radically in Urban Grünfelder’s sculptures, since through their poses and postures, their nakedness, weakness, indignities and paralysis they expose brutality in its most crass form as an integral part of our culture. The interaction between the sculptures and the audience refers as such to the existential dimension – everything is at stake, the survival and extinction of humanity.
The selected monochrome high-gloss colours further reinforce this impetus. Of interest are the impact of colour and design. The polish and gloss expose a society that intends these surfaces to conceal the obscene and perverse. Oppressiveness goes hand in hand with voyeurism. Every figure is individual, though they are not suited to simplistic interpretation.
Urban Grünfelder develops his sculptures out of ceramics, which are among man’s oldest cultural and artisan skills. Clay – the raw material eventually forming the sculptures – suggests vitality to the observer. The figures grow beyond themselves and overstep their reality. They are a parody of being originally human. Yet the individual sculptures are only realized, as they are unfolded in numerous sketches.
In the context of working with Urban Grünfelder, I became aware of an intrinsic physicality within the body that is implicit to his sculptures. The bodies reflect something much greater outside them; they are a kind of mirror of society, its conventions and constraints.
Urban Grünfelder, the person, as well as his various facets and personal living conditions must be understood as part of his works for the purpose of interpretation. Urban Grünfelder always searches for standpoints and thematic emphases, which preoccupy him artistically, in order to put them at the centre of his work. His own physicality seems to serve as an artistic medium, yet independently of any specific comparison with the body. By the same token, our perception should focus on the human components in his works, and the mentality that is to be expressed. These aspects reflect the disquiet and inhumanity of our time.
The fragmentary man/PDF
Paintings and self portraits
I believe the painter Urban Grünfelder would have chosen this plain title for a text about his art. “To purge” is the first word that comes to my mind in regard to his work, whose development I have been priviledged to follow over the past ten years or so; to leave out, to condense, to concentrate - until his canvases bear only what is indispensable to painting: pigment and fiction.
Backgrounds in acrylic paints, figures in masterful oil paints, both often in bright “signal” shades, quite close to the co mon color properties, but always shifted a few nuances, which account for the unique character and which transform his works into pieces of art - quite an achievement. Maybe the fiction begins with the way he applies the paint. Grünfelder meticulously avoids every gesture, every individual “stroke” with his paint brush; the energy I see in the opaque monochrome shapes the artist takes himself from their surfaces. He conceals from the viewer that which we appreciate about many other paintings from different times and artists, also a desideratum in academic art history. At the same time Grünfelder knows only too well about the object character of every painting and thus the general impossibility of that concealment. In short, he provokes us.
Open secrets - as viewers we could have begun thinking at the word “oil paint”. Suprisingly often - to me - the painter uses the word “communication” in context with his work. From this field we know that it is not concrete matter that meets and interacts, but rather wishes, desires, dreams, nightmares, projections, phantasies - in myths, metaphors, symbols. Ecce homo - and maybe this being is the most comprehensive of all our fictions.
In general the paintings depict a person, seldom two, or rather something we could describe as “logo”, as signet, symbol, or metaphor of a person whose abstract outline, always faceless, without individual recognizability, mostly genderless. Many of Grünfelders figures could be women; of course not “dulcet”, “round”, obstensibly senseous, they serve no scheme. Urban Grünfelder says in principle he probably always only depicts himself, ecce homo. The stories, the conditions stick to the canvas as if pressed and shock frozen; motionless shells caught in their poses. Only the viewer is able to move - physically and mentally - and the artist invites us to do so.
Examples: a figure in a shade of darkest blue crouches as if freezing in a cold blue winter morning, she protects her extremities, is physically and psychologically lonely. Or: a grotesk disembodied corpus, protects its head, plugs its ears, does not want to hear any more gruesome news, has enough since the cruxifiction, jerks. It is up to us. How far we want to see and hear the essence of these paintings. How much we allow ourselves to leave our social shells, the masks of society, and are willing to endure the naked sight of the other as well as ourselves.
Another crouching figure in a different painting, helmet head, in an almost military dark grey, with lustful curledup toes he extends himself over the canvas and shoots, as he believes, into the world - and yet he appears to us like a skewered, literally dumn ape, who will not leave his red cage. I do not want to have to decide if I shoot, even without testicles. The duality of our role as the viewer, the sense of being watched while watching, always makes for a shared experience. A rare painting depicting two figures, identical frontal half nudes, grouped together to a triptychon with an empty light blue. Our view cannot find a hold in it. Do they threaten us? Do they want to separate into the emptiness of the adjacent paintings, or maybe more brutally, do they want to duke out or endure something among several, among many? Or are they yet again only an “I”, social or psychological conflicts among three, between two, or within one?
Paintings and self portraits/PDF
Ceramics of Europe
Editor: Keramikmuseum Westerwald
Editor: Kunstverein Kärnten 2013
The fragmentary man
Editor: Urban Grünfelder, 2013
Von Sinnen Wahrnehmung in der Zeitgenössischen Kunst
Editor: Anette Hüsch, 2012
The Excitement Continues, Zeitgenössische Kunst aus der Sammlung Leopold II
Editor: Franz Smola, Diethard Leopold, 2012
20 Jahre ar/ge kunst Galerie Museum
Editor: Sabine Gamper, 2006
La Main dans la Main
Editor: Hubert Egger, Norbert Hilbig, Hans-Werner Kalkmann, 2005
Editor: Urban Grünfelder, 2004
vorn 2004, Das Magazin für freie Gestaltung
Editor: Joachim Baldauf und Agnes Feckl, 2004
art position 2003, Almanach zur jungen Kunst in Wien
Editor: Kolja Kramer, 2003
art position 2003, Conflicts/Resolution
Editor: Kolja Kramer, 2003
art position 2002, Almanach zur jungen Kunst in Wien
Editor: Kolja Kramer, 2002
Editor: Maggie. Mc Cormik & Claudia Maria Luenig, 2002
in Südtirol, lebt in Wien
Editor: Berthold Ecker & Wolfgang Hilger, 2001
Works from the studios
Editor: Hana Jirmusova`, 2001
CENTRAL, Neue Kunst aus Mitteleuropa
Editor: artlab, 2001
Sammlung der Stadt Wien, MA 7
Sammlung des Bundes, BMUKK
Gesellschaft der Freunde der bildenden Künste
Boston Consulting Group
Stiftung Südtiroler Sparkasse
Austria, Germany, Italy and USA
Michael Morgenbesser I creasign.net
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