Josef Kostner - heads and stubborn heads

07.06 - 01.07.24

Looking at Josef Kostner's art is like leafing through the pages of a secret diary, his inner story. His works are materialized emotions and feelings, as well as the embodiment of ways of thinking and thoughts. Each of the impressive faces has its own character and yet is universal. Each head bears unmistakable features that expressively show what it means to be human. Josef Kostner's creations are not portraits in the traditional sense: they symbolize a state, a feeling. 

The human face has interested artist Josef Kostner throughout his life because it is undoubtedly the most meaningful, personal and revealing feature of the human being. Moreover, the face is the most expressive and communicative part of the human body. Alexej von Jawlensky said of his central theme of the human face: "I see in a face not only the face, but the whole cosmos. The universe reveals itself in the face.

Josef Kostner responds with a different view of reality. Processes of alienation, transgression and suppression of the real seem to him to be suitable for capturing the state of the individual in the world. His heads, sometimes seemingly deliberately damaged, create a poignant vision of loneliness, life experience, but also of pain and sorrow. Kostner's art is often expressive in nature. They reflect the processes and relationships of being human.

A multi-talented artist, he was a nonconformist; his art was characterized by a lack of rules and deviation from the norm. His intention was to strive for otherness and deviation from beauty. He questioned the ideality of form and vehemently broke away from classical design principles. By holding up a mirror to the world, reality is distorted, stretched, and turned on its head. With his heads, Kostner realizes the discovery of the fantastic, the deformed, and sometimes the grotesque. They allow us to look behind the facade into the terrifying depths of human existence. 

The artistic value of the mysterious, the ambiguous, and the enigmatic emerges from the labyrinthine, subterranean paths of his consciousness. Kostner processes his personal and cosmopolitan life experiences with visionary vigor. Throughout his life, he has artistically processed formative childhood experiences and the turbulent war and post-war period. The experiences of the post-war period in particular have found their way into his work as a critique of structural problems in politics and the church. They show how close guilt and innocence, power and powerlessness, privilege and discrimination often lie to one another.

With his touching and evocative works, Josef Kostner wanted to awaken a new empathy in society. His works can irritate our viewing habits, they swim against the current, shake the foundations of high culture, break the norm and establish an aesthetic of diversity.

The figuration in Kostner's work was ever-changing, but always associated with intimate moments and an exuberant emotionality. His artistic practice was fueled by a passionate urge, an obsession from which he drew tirelessly. Passion, however, always goes hand in hand with consistency and enthusiasm. For the artist Josef Kostner, art was more than a passion, it was his life, a purpose in life that was difficult to satisfy. This inner strength made him wonder about himself again and again, as obsessive forces led him to impulsive outbursts, unimagined intensities and inner compulsions. Although art sometimes demanded him to the point of exhaustion, he longed for it. His intimate, personal need for self-reflection and recollection was fulfilled in the studio.

The artist's confrontation (destruction) with the prevailing and traditional image of man was the basis of his designs, to which he gave an inner image. Man and his humanity are contradictory. In his drawings, man is perhaps even more clearly shown as a seeker and a fighter. The faces look at us upright and proud despite their disfigurement. By looking inward, at mental and spiritual suffering, Kostner gives his art a universal approach that thematizes the timeless.

Josef Kostner's art is a tribute to the human being and reflects the diversity and expressiveness of the human condition.

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