Opening: Tuesday, 23 May 2006, 7 pm
Exhibition: 24 - 28 May 2006, daily 11 am - 6 pm
Aula of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Schillerplatz 3, 1010 Vienna
Opening | Tuesday, 23 May 2006, 7 pm
Welcoming | Stephan Schmidt-Wulffen, Rector of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna
Introduction | Herwig Zens
On the Technical Solution of the Impossible | Kurt Zein, master printer
On the occasion of the retirement of Professor Herwig Zens, who was closely bound up with the institution for nineteen years as teacher and Head of the Institute for Secondary School Teaching Degrees, the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna will present the integral print of his etched diary in Austria for the first time.
Begun more or less at random on 9 November 1977, the 500-page document realized in a variety of etching techniques on 5 x 40 cm copper plates highlights various stations in the printer's life. Assisted by the artist, the printer Kurt Zein has taken up the challenge, made the technically impossible possible, and committed the 40 m long stock to paper. In accordance with Zens's penchant for Spain, the mannerist printing feat was first presented in Betanzos in Galicia in 2005.
In the context of the exhibition, one of the oldest printing techniques will be combined with one of the most modern electronic methods for the first time. The IT company EOC has provided a special software that makes it possible to browse through Zens's electronically captured diary for expressions and to locate and project the strips containing them.
The Story of an Obsession | A 28-year diary in one piece of paper
It was clearly time for him to set down the events of this life in a diary: on 9th November 1977 Herwig Zens starts his diary with a self-portrait and at the same time makes his long-term perspective clear by putting "page 1" on the first page. The distinctive features are the format and the technique: each page is a 5 centimetre wide and 40 centimetre high copper plate at first with etchings; later followed by Aquatint and other etching techniques. In the meantime the diary has acquired a life of its own, becoming an obsession - just as other great subjects did for Herwig Zens: for example Goya, danse macabre, Greek mythology, Mount Athos, America....
At irregular periods the diary has to be made public. An undertaking which naturally becomes increasingly difficult as the work grows in size and presents greater challenges - with still growing attraction.
For the first time in 1991 after page 187 all the etchings were printed on a continuous sheet. It was 12 metres long and exhibited on two occasions: in the Lang Gallery fixed onto a steel cable with pegs and in the Tiller Gallery mounted on the walls.
In 1992 Zens presented his unique diary on half sheets which can be put in rows next to each other and also can be used as panels.
This was made into a triumphal arch in 1993 and was exhibited in the Lang Gallery on the occasion of Zens' 50th birthday and in the same year as a stele at the Graphics Exhibition in Dresden and the Frankfurt Art Exhibition.
The years from 1977 to 1993 were exhibited in the Kurashiki City Art Museum in Japan in 1994 along with works from the Japanese artist Toshifumi Harada.
In 1995 Zens got the idea to print the whole of what was then 18 years in one piece. In the same year the 20 metre longest etching in the world went on show in Düsseldorf at the art multiple. The Prints and Drawings Collection (Kupferstichkabinett) of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna obtained one of the two copies which was displayed and archived there, while the version exhibited in Frankfurt along with the printer vanished.
In 2000 Andreas Lendl's Haus der Kunst in Graz exhibited 367 diary etchings under the title "From Day to Day".
The procedure for each finished plate is strictly regulated: the individual strips are printed in a run of 30 copies plus 5 artist proofs on Rives Arches paper 250g. The strips of one year amount to 70 x 100 cm, the Kupferstichkabinett receiving the print numbered 1/30, the Ministry of Culture in Vienna number 11/30 and the Haus der Kunst in Graz 12/30. One of the artist proofs is received by Johannes Scheer, who academically edits the Zensian pressure printing.
And now the time has come again: 28 years of diary on one piece of paper. That means a length of about 40 metres. The printer Kurt Zein has taken on the challenge and constructed special equipment with plastic pipes and wooden blocks which spread over a length of eleven metres in the workshop to make a continuous print possible; to enable the sensitive paper to be handled as carefully as necessary and to allow it to dry after the print run. The paper is French, white, acid-free watermarked Arches/Velin and weighs 400g/m2. A special production. The paper has to be kept moist, rolled up for three to four days to get the required pliancy. Then it can be printed on: assisted by Valentin Hirsch, a student of Prof. Gunter Damisch, and Javier Pérez Gil, a young Spanish artist, whom love brought to Vienna, Kurt Zein spent four days printing until the complete roll with all the 28 years was finished - all the plates being precleaned, manually inked and printed on the Plankenhorn hand printing press which is modelled on the legendary Krause press. The edition consists of 2 plus 1 artist proof in which each copy is different: the new diary entries made during the printing are included - a self-referring system. The Obsession.
- Each year consists of between 11 to 25 strips (pages); with a median number of 16.8 strips per year.
- The lowest number of days per strip is 4, the maximum 54.
- Only very few strips have no illustrations at all, on the rest there are between 1 and 9 illustrations per strip, with a medium amount of 4 per strip.
- The first strip contains only illustrations and no text, the first entry appears on the second strip dated: 21.11.1977: Letter to Franz. Then the range of frequency of days with only text entries is between 2 and 52 per strip.
- The number of days with neither text nor illustration, i.e. with just the date, ranges from 1 to 36 however as the diary grows the days without any entry become less frequent. From 1995 a maximum of 4 days per year are only dated and in some years there are no blank days at all.
- Up to 06.05.2005 there are altogether 1,090 entries with remarks about the artist's mood with constantly increasing frequency.
- In 1986 the first entries about the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna appear and here too the frequency quickly increases. Altogether up to the period ending 6.5.2005 there are 928 comments concerning the Academy.
- Various places and names occur regularly. At the absolute top of the list comes Kals in East Tirol with 439 mentions, Mount Athos is mentioned by name 99 times, Madrid 90, Paris 83, Graz 72, Salzburg 44 and Venice 40 times. One of the very frequently mentioned names is Ortner (head of the Arnold Schoenberg Choir and Athos companion), which occurs 123 times.
Text: Verena Kienast
1943 born in Himberg next to Vienna
1961 studies at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna
1965 First visit to Spain, dissertation on the "Pinturas negras" (Black Paintings) by Goya
1977 First entry in the etched diary
1984 Beginning of the operation "Goya Projetions" about the "Pintura negras", continuing until 1993
1987 Professorship at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna
1995 Presentation of the "World's Longest Etching" at the art fair art multiple in Düsseldorf
1998 Estampa, Madrid | Presentation of the "World's Longest Etching" in the Kupferstichkabinett (Prints and Drawings Collection) at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna
1999 Film-project "A Spanish Passion"
2002 Presentation of the diary-etching at a special exhibition of Estampa, Madrid | Award of the medal "de Merito Civil" by King Juan Carlos I. For the contribution of the dissemination of Spanish Culture in Austria
2005 Film-project: "Goya - burden and passion", 3sat | Presentation of the one-piece-diary-etching in Betanzos, Spain
2006 The Academy of Fine Arts Vienna confer emeritus status on Herwig Zens by the end of the winter term.