Don't Trust Them  



Picasso, ACAB and trash humanity: thoughts and constructive ideas on the the current pictures of Andreas Leikauf



Extinction threatens. The public telephone kiosk has been on slow fade-out for some time now, the typewriter can squeeze a look in at the most on the art pages, pencil sharpener and carbon paper are no longer permanent fixtures on the writing desk, and stickers on the backs of cars are gradually disappearing from the public space. There used to be a habit lasting into the seventies in certain social groups of sticking pictures and/or sayings on what is supposedly the second skin of the (male) human being, namely, car bodies. Based on the baroque tradition of heraldry, car owners used these temporary public tattoos to publicise their sense of humour, also intimate details of their life. For instance, "Bonking is fun" was the heading to be read above a comic-type depiction of a copulating couple. Or: "My Hobby: Screwing". Or: "Hurray! I'm first again." Apart from the eagerness to bill-post obscenities, stickers were used to give the lie to one's own (sad) financial situation. Many a "My Other Car is a Rolls Royce" sticker could be seen, stuck preferably on rusty crates that could just about gasp down the road.

The unbridgeable gap between the emblazoned statement and the presumed, in fact obvious reality was meant to motivate the one who saw the sticker to a smile. Stickers are assigned to the lowest order of trivia and their significance is fading - who wants be to be outed as a crude, small-town macho? - but meanwhile Andreas Leikauf exploits the slogan mentality in his painting. "My other painting is a picasso" is the title of one of his pictures. The inscription consists of red-outlined, white letters that animate a black, undefinable form - a flag? a pillow? - which is again in contrast to the red, square picture ground. Leikauf exploits the below-the-belt-hitting messages in the classic car sticker with tongue-in-cheek self-irony; he supposes a fictional collector (or himself) who has to justify himself for a Leikauf painting. Picasso is a universal synonym for something noble and financially prohibitive, comparable with a Rolls Royce. Even people who have nothing to do with art know what it's all about. The artist is piling on the associations. With a twinkle in his eye and retro-charm.


Do something. Anything. Range through the streets, beg for money from complete strangers, not just a couple of cents, but one or two euros straight from the shoulder and then spend them on beer in the next supermarket. Lie on a bench for hours in the palace gardens. Enjoy the warming rays of the sun. Listen to the mating calls of the peacocks and the crunch of strolling shoes on the gravel. Wonder at the sight of pensioner couples supporting each other with clasped hands. Saunter past the fruit stand in the shopping street and filch pears and a banana on the way. Not quite ripe enough, the pears. Get together with friends near the public fountain and exchange plans for the evening. Maybe spray ACAB again on a power supply terminal or on one of the wall posters of the hated business concern. In black. Or even better, in red. As often as possible. In the tried and tested group of three. Perfect team. All cops are bastards. Don't get caught doing it. Think about the graffiti of the early days. AC/DC writing, obscene scribbles on the wooden backrests of bucket seats in public transport vehicles, telephone numbers that are never correctly specified, stuck chewing gum, and SK STURM letters written in thick Edding script.

Do something. Buy a ticket for the football match in the stadium. Swear at the fans of the opposing team. Bastards and so on. Poofs. Let off steam. Let the cooped-up energies flow. Fist-threaten, suggest self-assurance and strength in the massed crowd. Commit word crimes. Drink beer. Swing your scarf. Move to the rhythm of the fan anthems: You'll never walk alone... Trying subtle ruses to win the attention of a girl who for weeks has always sat in the row next to the sector entrance. Throw her an occasional look. Standing here we're out of our minds. But then go home again alone. Fill yourself with beer till you're legless. Listen to Dystopia. Love the earth and hate people. Stare at the boxes, sozzled. Work up sympathy towards them. Discover faces in them. Filter the compact humming of a passenger plane out of the monotonous sounds of a car and imagine passengers. How they select family viewing from Hollywood on the screens on board and are stuffed to the gills with farmed salmon.

Have something else. Make the effect stronger. Tumble in colour spaces. And think again of the couple from the plane. How their holidays were spoiled by fits of tears on the beach at night. To see the tears trickle out of the corners of the other one's eyes. Emotion-wrought faces. And silence. Think of Frankie Teardrop. Be a Happy Loser.


"2 Reasons", "Could be art", "What a nice day", "Only the bad survive", "The sky is the reason why", "Home sweet hell", "Ready to riot". Andreas Leikauf's picture titles are like the set list of a rock concert. Formulations taken or adapted from the everyday world, pop, TV, film, fashion, advertising and comics, which we seem to know at first glance. They sound familiar. The words in English are always the title of the whole picture. Frequently the words, phrases, ideas and sayings are written in unspectacular capitals, occasionally the kind of painted letters intensifies their effect. For instance when he uses the horror-film and gothic novel tradition and the letters run as though with blood, intensifying the bloodthirsty character. Or a script style is dominated by jagged tines and zigzags, enhancing the subcultural magic in the inherent message. Leikauf chooses lower-case and handwriting if he wants to give his picture the updated, magazine-style graphic quality of a title page.

Leikauf slogans have a direct and intense relationship to his compositions. Words and motifs are shreds of a flood of images and texts that envelops us, into which the artist plunges, retrieving selected fragments on land, abstracted, combined, augmented and thus shaped into new meanings. With this dialogue between image and text-definition Leikauf is placed in a long Austrian tradition including Fritz von Herzmanovsky-Orlando, Alfred Kubin right through to G√ľnter Brus and many more artists. The texts can be interpreted in many ways. There are merely captions for the signified; proverb-like, empty idioms, yet, when put in relationship to the painting, they are filled with content again; furthermore, are instructions or challenges for action to do this or that, poetic miniatures, trashy spoofs, calls for action, questions; attempts, full of pathos, to explain the world, statements on the situation, one-word titles with double meaning, and so much more. Word-recycling that raises image-recycling from newspapers and magazines to a new level: platitudes are exposed, glossy pictures start to fade, idylls waver and wither, the normal and everyday is given a filter that muddies and blurs; the simple, the unspectacular, the detail is recharged. The letters and words seem to float in the picture space or are interwoven with parts of the picture, for instance notes, banderoles, jackets, t-shirts, ties and other pieces of clothing. Leikauf presents the beholder an updated heraldry, counteracted by the seeming beauty of the youthful persons being portrayed. These mostly two-coloured pictures reverberate with the following: triste emptiness and the counsel not to be ingenuous. "Don‚?(TM)t trust them" could be a picture title by Andreas Leitkauf.


Ashtrays, cigarettes and cigarette lighters are lying on the table. Illuminated by red light. At the back: the woman with the long black hair, legs crossed, relaxed, her bent arms resting on them. Snug. The bright suite of furniture positioned at a right angle betrays the owner's style. A flat-screen TV might be hanging on the wall of this room, the fridge is possible filled with Napa Valley Fume Blanc, the ultra-mini CD player is accustomed to have Norah Jones and Carla Bruni sliding into it. Recently Amy Winehouse as well. Life, a wish-fulfilment dream. One without faces. Without a human countenance. An illusion? Three words document the abrupt climb-down from the idealised image of a consumer-oriented world, down to seething uncertainty: is everything a chimera? Human howling behind the closed facade? Nothing other than a glossy exterior? Could be perfect are the three words. Note: in the conditional tense. So not the dream world after all. "Life is struggle and stress - that's all. There are short periods when you are contented. Everything else is worry - about the family, or yourself," says the football trainer Ivan "Ivica" Osim. Struggle and stress. That's it. Isn't someone sitting opposite the woman? Sketchily, you can just make out a bit of a (male?) hand and trousers. Could be perfect. If the situation wasn't as it is. Because the words of confrontation, avoided so long, are now going to break out. Maybe. Maybe the relationship drama can't be cemented any more. It's all over, lost. But the main thing is to keep your poise. Don't loose your cool. Show your style, even in grief, in frustration. "Can I get you anything?" Don't let yourself be seen as a particle of trash humanity. Trash humanity? General meeting of writing signs? The necessity of determining the outcome of the self? Now, at the latest, we know what's going on. Werner Schwab. Dirt has work character, goodness has work character, he writes in the essay Der Dreck und das Gute. Das Gute und der Dreck. (Dirt and Goodness. Goodness and Dirt). The culmination point has material character, despair is material character. And boredom is the high-security main material of the basic well-being industry. Andreas Leikauf dips his trash humanity in garish colours; he models expressive woodcuts, which manage without the material of wood and consist of collective longings and individual crises. Their general meeting of writing signs contributes to smoothing out rivalries.

Dirt and goodness. They are often balanced out in equilibrium in Leikauf's pictures. But: only hinted at, not formulated. They mix to become a catalyst for stories in the heads of the observers. Narrative force without claiming truth. Conditional, in fact. Could. Maybe. Maybe everything is quite different. No last attempt at saying what you feel. No Carla Bruni. No trash humanity. "Would you like a cigarette" A perfect evening. Isn't it?


So that junkies in public toilets have problems finding their veins, municipal authorities in the major cities install intensive blue light in them. This makes the human blood vessels which are to absorb the poison lose contour. Dominant colour spaces and moods also characterise Andreas Leikauf's pictures: refulgent turquoise, brightened pea-green, the most diverse shades of red and purple, shadowy brown, pale blue, pale pink, creamy ochre, on rare occasions white, yellow or a fashionable orange. The dominance of one colour in combination with the black of figural representation attracts attention, intensifies the viewing angle of the observer. This conciseness with a tendency towards dramatic expression recalls penny-dreadful covers, for example, details, enlargements of details from the title pages of old Jerry Cotton stories. The love of trash culture, underground and junk is quoted here, just as in Wolfgang Bauer's poem "The Heart": Because of a lack of a few dollars/ I rip out my heart once more/dash it spraying blood onto the black counter/of a little bar in Tijuana/avoiding the bloodbath/I drink my tequila/outside/I hear Chet Baker's flute trumpet blowing smoky/the sound comes straight from the heat/from a white clour/these are my shoot outs (...). The garish, the sensuous quality in the formal aesthetics used by Leikauf is mellowed by a peculiar tranquillity, almost boredom radiated by the portrayed persons. Leikauf shows his figures mostly in a state of pause, still thought, tormenting self-doubt, or questioning curiosity.

Only rarely are dynamic or action-filled poses shown. Instead: the still glance to the side, staring into space, head slightly bowed to the floor, the head only partly visible, and sometimes direct eye contact. Despite youth and beauty and evident prosperity they quite often arouse pity, the Leikauf figures, which could have originated in a film, a magazine photo or a 16 sheet poster. They make a somehow irritated impression, not honest with themselves, out of place, too. Right time to be wrong. Who embroidered Hell on the pretty couch cushion? Isn't that a tear on the girl's face with the sad eyes and long plaits? And why doesn't the skinny man feel good, the one with the face of a pop star? Something's wrong here. Life, a mistake. A way into the mire. Serious case scenario. This is it, has been for a long time. Serious case scenario. Normal state of affairs, has been for a long time. Yes, yes wrong colours. Serious case scenario in the centre of civilisation. And there's no help. No intense blue light, either.

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