Expressive Female Cosmos
Arranged, organized, staged
“In my paintings I explore relationships through female figures.”
She is among the most important Austrian painters of our era. In her paintings, she explores relationships through female figures.
The sentence “The female is the more beautiful gender” is from you. Why do you think that?
I must be ahead of my time. I have always painted independent women, long before the call for quotas and the “me too debates” grew louder. In my opinion women are simply more presentable in art. They are more multi-faceted and complexer than men. They can do more, and they more interesting formally. My figures are no pin-up beauties but distinct personalities. They are pivotal in my work. In my pictures they represent all gender affiliation. In my private life I am a contradiction in person. I have a truly compatible husband – a quota man, so to speak (she laughs). Although, in my pictures you do occasionally find men as objects of desire, my female gaze entwines them with critical sympathy.
What do you still find exciting in the new feminist debate? Haven’t we been through all that already?
Fundamentally, yes, but not in the current form. The debate recurs cyclically, and each time women attain a little more. But we should not be grateful for that. By now, life should be running on equal footing. The “me too debate” is absolutely necessary – though hopefully a bit of erotic appeal will manage to survive in relationships as well as freedom in art. Uh oh, I’m sure that’s going to get some immediate flak.
You commute between Vienna, Berlin and Traunkirchen…
A… Berlin is a kind of antipodes to Vienna and interesting for an artist. I have been commuting for thirty years. Because of the Rosenkavalier production at the Berlin State Opera for which I did the set, I’ve been in Berlin frequently over the past months.
When was the last time you designed a stage set?
28 years ago someone told me.
André Heller put together an Austrian team for his production. Arthur Arbesser designed the costumes, and you did the stage set. Where was the common denominator?
Heller was looking for interdisciplinary atypicality. In other words, not a costume designer and not a classic set designer. He preferred distinct artistic personalities. That was a part of his concept. Anyway, he’s no classic opera director either. He’s a cross-border universal artist.
It turned out that the material was custom-made for me, though it took me a while to realize that. In my paintings I focus on relationships which I explore through female figures. In the Rosenkavalier too the major roles are female – even if they dress like men. No one seriously believes the trouser roles. It’s the pretense that matters more – and that is interesting. This gender play is totally topical and modern. Which is to say, you might think of the Rosenkavalier as a semiconscious trailblazer for our present debates on diversity.
Photography is a part of your process. How do you work?
First I make a photo of a motif. Usually I have some idea in the back of my mind. Taking photos is a preliminary study – like making an index cards catalogue. But taking photos is for me a very pleasurable part of my work – just like painting.
Your father, Rudolf Hausner, was a major Austrian painter and part of the inner circle of the “Viennese school of fantastic realism”. Your two sisters are also successful artists. Jessica Hausner is a film director and Tanja Hausner is a costume designer. You seem to have been raised in a creative environment…
Art and everything that has to do with art was our main subject at home. It was a discursive environment. And content was the issue. My two sisters are twenty years younger than me, phase delayed, but the three of us breathed a basic music in common. That influences our work.
What are you currently working on?
At the moment, I am focusing on forms that cannot be classified geometrically. They are amorphous and irrational and obtain an object-like status. Somehow that’s what led me to the perforated edges of postage stamps.
Postage stamps are pretty retro as a medium?
Yes, a sunken world, somehow poetic. Maybe postage stamps will have a comeback once the overtaxed servers blow up. Reflection on the past and analysis is what is needed now.
When is your next exhibition?
An extensive retrospective of my work was supposed to open at the Albertina in May. It’s been postponed till March 2021 because of Corona. That gives me an opportunity to work through the new upheavals.
Albertina/ True Lies
Born in 1951 in Vienna, studied stage setting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna and at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. From 1977 to 1992 stage sets for theater and opera at Covent Garden, London, the Burgtheater in Vienna, the Salzburg Festival. Since 1992, she has worked exclusively as a painter with single and group exhibitions at national and international art institutions. Hausner’s works are found in collections and museums; among them, the Albertina, Belvedere Museum, and the Essl Collection.