Austrian painter debuts new Beijing work at Palace Gallery
Ronny Goerner's bold expressionism is energetic and color rich
In the art world of New York small private openings by new names may be risky, since by definition there is a possibility that the art may please friends more than those less allied to the artist. But last night's party at the Palace Gallery reminded an elite East Side audience that there can be huge exceptions to this rule, and that there is a reason why this is going to happen more often.
For the remarkable show featured the work of a mature artist of solidly accomplished yet still burgeoning talent. Those who came to see the buoyant, emotionally irrepressible, even volcanic paintings of Austrian Ronny Goerner, 64, for the first time (Click images twice for full size) were rewarded with exciting canvases of vigorous brushwork, rich color interactions and intriguing structural themes built upon and camouflaging intelligible naturalistic outlines.
All these qualities poured forth from an artist who only in the last decade has been released from domestic responsibilities. As senior citizenship becomes the new middle age this kind of later in life liberation is surely going to happen more and more in the future, and if Goerner's is the kind of potential that will be released, the art world is in for an unprecedented infusion of new blood.
Among the guests were John Nania, editor of the Epoch Times, energy and real estate investor Bob Armao, investment manager Elena Nesterova, theater columnist Ward Morehouse, socialite Margarita Flatz from Austria, model Dmitry Pankov, gallery owner Shahin Khalili, CEO of Global Strategic Alliance, promoter and manager Karl Hofer, and public relations executive Sabine Ohler.
Also present were Broadway actor Michael Maitland, art consultant Luisa Flynn, actress, novelist and Marilyn Monroe's daughter Nancy Miracle, songstress Erin 'EJ' Jividen, Broadway actor, producer, director and writer and A View From The Bridge star Tony Lo Bianco, and reporters from the New York Times, the New York Post, the New York Sun and the Epoch Times, whose reporter, Nadia Ghattas, wrote a story on Feb 25 for the US edition, viewable at Acclaimed Austrian Painter Makes New York Debut
Hosted by a gallery which normally stops short at Impressionism, and whose statues and other art objects run to the gilt Baroque and Rococo, the riot of color and powerful flourishes of Goerner's sizeable canvases, some mounted high on the wall, formed a brilliant symbol of emotional liberation in a classical context.
Goerner's unrestrained expressionism is truly remarkable for an artist who had barely studied before she married at 20 in 1961, cofounding a packaging company with her husband in her home town in southern Austria, Klagenfurt, and bringing up three daughters despite bouts of ill health. She returned to painting with motion studies of her children in the 80s, and has only been dedicated to painting as a full time occupation in the last ten years.
Five of her recent output of eight paintings from China, completed in a sleepless week for a solo show in Beijing's Dashanzai (art district) - she sold three - was on exhibit with other works last night. The power and accomplishment of the show made at least one guest wonder how her obviously uninhibited passion and huge talent had ever been corraled by domestic and business responsibilities.
Canvases, typically from 40 to 60 inches in both dimensions, are large enough to provide plenty of scope for Goerner's structural flourishes. These basic elements are usually naturalistic, primitive outlines of people clothed and unclothed, and animals such as a cow, but these basic designs are camouflaged and overlaid with the overall dynamism of big, forceful brush strokes and complex color interactions whose excitement and texture thrill the eye.
"Anthropomorphic and zoomorphic grotesquery"
Ronny signed copies of her vividly red bound book in the large handwriting of an artist, its introduction explaining her serendipitous trajectory from the backwaters of Carinthia in South Austria to the capital of China and now the Big Apple, with the support and encouragement of friend and patron, promoter Karl Hofer. The two introductions in the book are by Aleksander Bassin, director of the City Art Museum in Ljubljana, Solvenia, and Marie-Claire Boulner, Viennese art historian.
Bessin notes that whereas the Carinthian painter's two decades of work have always been poetic yet reductionist in structure nowadays they burst with "sensuality (and) anthromorphic and zoomorphic grotesquery", and that her rapid development promises "incessant transformation (until) all its spiritual constellations finally come to fruition."
Boulner notes "simple expressive forms... forceful movement...monumental paintings (which) interweave pictorial levels ... sometimes with a kind of story (which) develops between objects and figures." Also, a "play of dynamics and variety.. (which) develops out of a jumble of figures and objects a poetically boisterous and nearly abstract pictorial language."
Now that she is in New York again (she has often visited before but never to paint) Ronny plans to stay in a city which buoys her with its sense of liberation and potential, especially after Beijing. "New York is the world of freedom which they are looking for in China", she says. "There you are watched from every side, and they tell you, 'Don't leave the district!' But artists from all over the world are going to Beijing now," she found. "Australians, Americans, I even met an Eskimo - and they can do what they like, since they bring their dollars."
With several longtime friends in New York she feels at home here, she says, and she is planning to stay for a while and if she can find a studio, to paint here as well as Beijing. A loft swap may be in the cards. Apparently she and her friends can handle a long distance life style - her daughter Elizabeth, 36, who has started a successful packaging company in Romania, flew in for the show and a day tomorrow with her mother, though unfortunately she was held up and didn't make the party.
Her friend and collector Margarita Flatz, who has five of Ronny's great canvases on the walls of her large house in Klagenfurt, flew in for the opening as well. She lives two hours from Venice, and studied art herself, and also married and had three children, With a talent for drawing, she often draws minatures of her children and now grandchildren, she says. "I first saw Ronny's painting in a show while I was at art school," she said. "Such expression! She paints with her heart - not for publicity but for herself! Sorry I am not used to speaking English." She is more interested in contemporary art but studied the history of art under two famous professors in Vienna, Pacht and Demus.
Private openings have the advantage that a gathering of friends grants the art a pleasant social framing, and the presence of Flatz and other friends, a group which seemed to quickly expand to anyone new, warmed the atmosphere at this event. But it was the emotional fire of Loerner's canvases which excited the crowd and proved the power of her talent.
The collection of paintings in her book are available for viewing on the Web at ArtNet . Goerner's next exhibition will be in Lubiana's Town Gallery, and one in June at the Prince of Lichtenstein's castle in Carinthia. In September, she will have a solo exhibition in Taiwan, and a show in Tokyo at the end of this year.