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Modern Art in Austria – Karl Hodina

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Painting: "Master of Woods"

A real Viennese character – known to everyone as a musician and performer of the "new Viennese song". Born in 1935 in Vienna, Karl Hodina began his career as a lithographer after the war, at the same time studying music privately and acquiring an enthusiasm for jazz. He began his training at the Vienna Graphic Apprenticeship and Experimental Institute in 1955. In 1966, he presented an exhibition on the theme of "St. Stephen" in the Basilisk Gallery, and his first individual exhibition followed at the GALERIE 6 in Backerstrasse in 1967.

Many more presentations followed in the form of art calendars or art folders. He has illustrated children's books, dealt critically with the traditional Viennese song, composed and wrote the Viennese song book "Oh du lieber Augustin" in 1979, has performed in concerts and on Austrian radio, designed the motorway service station at Arnwiesen near Gleisdorf, Styria, and has been involved in a number of cultural associations. He was awarded the title of Professor in 1984 for his wealth of creative works and his cultural commitment. In 2003, he was awarded the Austrian Cross of Honour for Arts and Science, First Class.

He inherited his musical talents from his Slovakian maternal grandfather, who, it is said, continued to sing and play the harmonica on his deathbed. His talent for brush and paint came from his Bohemian grandfather, who spent all his free time painting when not at work as a tailor.

During his childhood, Hodina discovered untainted nature by the Muhlwasser in the Lobau, where the family spent the summers at their allotment. His father, who died of tuberculosis at an early age, often took him fishing. The voyages of discovery through the flora and fauna of this archaic landscape left a deep impression on the child. His first paintings were dominated by motifs from the Lobau, motifs that have stayed with him throughout his life: water beetles, fishes, ferns, torn fishing nets – the idyllic and the fairytale with an aura of the pure, the untouched. As a young man, he felt poverty at close quarters, growing up in a bedsit apartment in Ottakring. It is his experiences of this time, a time that also witnessed his discovery of the traditional Viennese song, that generate the genuine emotion of his descriptions, songs or paintings of life in difficult circumstances.

Hodina's paintings are classified under the name "Vienna School of Fantastic Realism", but his models were taken from the old masters, such as the van Eyck brothers, and their painting techniques, which allow water-soluble paint (tempera) to be applied to oils using a bonding agent (egg) without being repelled. This technique of applying paint in a number of layers – for Hodina the "queen of painting methods" – was developed by Hodina himself over decades of painting as a self-taught artist. It is important for him that all the objects in a painting are covered with the same atmosphere of light, a process that is assisted by this glaze painting, a time-consuming technique, a technique for a master.

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