contemporary art / history of art

Artwork of the Month / June 2021

Greta Schödl

Ink and gold leaf on Carrara marble
34,5 cm x 22 cm x 7 cm


The untitled work by Greta Schödl is a piece of white Carrara marble, inscribed repetitively with the word “MARMO” (Ital. marble) in black ink. Every “O” is filled with gold leaf. Formed as a wedge, the stone stands on a small rectangular side and tappers to the top. Three of the surfaces are even. Here there are the inscriptions. Only the backside is uneven. It is untreated, as the stone was broken from the quarry.

Before Greta’s intervention, the piece of marble was only a by-product from a stonemason, cut away to create something else of the main stone. It was literally waste, although the stone is particularly precious. For her sculpture, the artist grinded the pre-existing cutting edges except the as backside described surface. Then she wrote the name of the material in black ink by hand in capital Latin letters several hundred times on the three smooth sides. Therefore, the artist underlines that she is not a sculptor in the classical sense of forming the material.

Instead, Greta transforms the object with her inscriptions. While the lines are in a relatively regular pattern, the extension of the letter sequences slightly varies. Thus, the position of the “O” shifts a little bit. By the accentuation of gold leaf in the letters “eye”, a rhythm arises and the literal sense of the word MARMO vanishes behind a system of characters. It becomes more a score, somehow graphical but also musical. The golden dots seem to be points of light, but at the same time evoke musical notations. Thereof, a kind of vibration arises. This vibration might create a resonance inside the contemplator and a contact could be established.

Before, Greta herself communicated with the stone. For her it is a tactile relationship. She felt the warmth, which the marble assumed during her intervention. Her work process is a compassionate meditation by the hundredfold repetition of the same word. By this practice, time plays a role. On one hand, it is the time of the creation and on the other hand the traces of the artist’s lifetime, her experiences, her memories, her emotions. She envelops the stone with all her background, her emotional rhythm. In consequence, the inscription becomes a garment for the marble, not only optically but also emotive. This transforms the former by-product into an artwork with a past, a present and a future. This future develops by the reception of others. Hence, the artist could get in touch with her public, depending on the contemplator’s perception.

Regarding the material, it is to be noted that the marble of Carrara is well known since Roman times. Used for sculptures and building decoration it is one of the most famous marble worldwide. However, the piece Greta handled did not have any of those destinations, but was waste. She transformed it not only by her intervention as described, but gave it an immaterial value as artwork. Moreover, she connected two precious materials, the Carrara marble and the gold as it was perhaps predetermined.

Inscriptions and gold are recurring elements in Greta’s oeuvre, which she applies on various materials and objects to give them a new form of existence. In 1978, she worked for the first time on marble. However, the inscriptions at the “Marmo di Paros” (Marble from Paros) are in Greek letters. Only during the lockdown in 2020, she returned to the transformation of found stone pieces of different sizes. She made a large series of it, all with the Italian word for the type of rock, in Latin letters. One of it is the presented Carrara marble. In 2021, the series was for the first time on view to the public. The Richard Saltoun Gallery, London showed it as online exhibition from 10th to 29th May.

Greta Schödl

Born 1929 in Hollabrunn, Austria Greta studied at the Academy of Applied Art in Vienna (Akademie für Angewandte Kunst Wien, today University of Applied Art). She graduated in 1953 and was honoured with the Academy Price. Immediately, she was successful with her carpets and mosaics and participated in national and international exhibitions, like in the Vienna Secession, the GEDOK in Munich and the Contemporary European Tapestry in Houston, United States.

Since 1959, Greta lives in Bologna, Italy. She suspended her artistic work for seven years to devote herself to her family. Afterwards, she restarted to create new oeuvres and took part in exhibitions, first in Bologna and soon on national and international level.

Already since her childhood, Greta has a special relation to books and scripture. Not surprisingly, she introduced these elements in her artistic creations. Often she repeats words on different materials like paper, textiles or even tree bark. However, there is rarely a linguistic information, because the artist focusses rather on emotional aspects. Therefore, most of her inscriptions are in Austrian Kurrent script, the handwriting she learned first in her life. Moreover, there are several examples of asemic writing.

In the 1970s, Greta inscribed various objects with their names, like an ancient hemp peasant shirt, an ironing board, a bed sheet and a block of marble from Paros. Once again, she used the Austrian Kurrent script, except for the marble. Here the Greek word for the material is executed in Greek letters. During the lockdown in 2020, the artist revived this practise of editing precious stones and covered a whole series of found pieces. However, here the inscriptions are all with the Italian word for the type of rock, this time in Latin letters. Like on the first marble block, the choice of fonts indicates the origin of the stone. A piece of white Carrara marble is our artwork of the month June 2021.

Another recurring element within the inscriptions, are the supplement of points of gold leaf. They are situated in the empty space of one character, for example in the letter “O”. Greta describes them as points of light, which are giving the oeuvre a certain rhythm, creating a vibration. This vibration might evoke a resonance in the contemplator and a communication might arise.

The step from writings to books is relatively small. In consequence, Greta created numerous artist books with collages of different materials where often natural elements like leaves and tree bark are included. Another practice is the work with body prints, with graphic additions or alienated by enlargement, like the painting “The First Universe”, which is our artwork of the month November 2018. These examples underline, that Greta’s large artistic range is not only related to various materials and techniques, but also huge regarding the dimensions, which are varying from smaller than postcards-size to big canvases and even space-consuming installations.

Despite her advanced age, Greta constantly continues her work. Since a few years, the Richard Saltoun Gallery, London, represents her. They showed her oeuvres in 2016 at the Turin, Italy based art fair Artissima and in 2017 at the paper works focussing WOP Art in Lugano, Switzerland. In 2018 the gallery dedicated her the double personal exhibition “Tomaso Binga & Greta Schödl: Vocalizing” at the gallery’s seat. One year later, they presented her creations at the Frieze in New York and in 2020 at the Artgenève. Also organised by Richard Saltoun, was an online exhibition in May 2021, with the new stone works. At this years’ MIART in Milan in September, the Labs Gallery from Bologna will show her oeuvres in a double personal exhibition.

Artwork of the month / November 2018

Greta Schödl: All my experience enters into my work