Franz Ehmann (b. 1963, Austria) lives and works in Brisbane, Australia.
From 1979 to 1982 he completed an apprenticeship as a chef. He worked and lived in Switzerland until 1986 where his interests were in nouvelle cuisine and seasonal produce. In 1986 he migrated to Australia, arriving in Adelaide. He received a BA in Fine Art from the NTU in Darwin now ( Charles Darwin University ) in 1991.
His first exhibition was at Gallerie Autodidakt, Bregenz, Austria in 1976 where he exhibited paintings and prints. Franz Ehmann was a partner in the artist run space Whitebox gallery in Brisbane from 1996 to 1997. He opened Soapbox gallery in Brisbane which he directed from 1997 to 2005. Soapbox Gallery operated as an incubator for ideas, installation practices, photography, video and other forms of visual communication. In 1999 in partnership with the Institute of Modern Art Brisbane he published ‘Soapbox – installation practices and artists’ which was followed by ‘Heterostrophic’ in 2002. Three monographs of his own work have also been published. ‘The blue room of humanity’ in 1997 coincided with his exhibition at the Institute of Modern Art as was ‘Open Panorama’ in 2000 and ‘Speaking the world into existence’ in 2005.
Since 1992, Franz Ehmann’s works have been based on food and materials related to cooking. There is a philosophical and conceptual link to the work that can be sustained through existential and ontological inquiries. Prepared food and its waste have dominated the theatrical language of many installation/performance/video works that hold symbolic and metaphorical significance. The focus and intention of these materials are their existential and phenomenological functions. Being in this world means to embody this world. The world is ingested, digested and wasted. A worldly theatre therefore embodies alienation and conciliation and is ultimately humanistic.
His first artist residency in 2000 was in Sri Lanka, which coincided with an exhibition at Barefoot Gallery and were he also curated the Artlink show of that residency with Sri Lankan and international artists. In 2007 he participated with a residency at Sydney’s Artspace and its attached program of performances and sculptural work practices. He presented his first solo show in Germany at the BBK Galerie in Augsburg and at the same time participated at the Vienna Biennale in the autumn of 2008. In his artwork text is a constant force of refining the physical and experienced environment.
Franz Ehmann introduced newspapers in 2003 after years of using the papers to protect the wooden floorboards from being paint splattered. Every bit in the newspapers represents values, data and communications on every imaginable level. At one point it becomes clear that everything counts that little bit more or becomes utterly absurd. Work and labor is never far from Franz Ehmann’s installations as if there is an escape route in all of this. His first public installation had its premiere at Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide, in 2005 under the statement ‘questioning the questions of this world’. These Installations and performances reappeared in the following years to the present. Franz Ehmann reworks the exhibitions from week to week and serves meals at the opening event. On the menu you will find Soft polenta with pan-fried mushrooms, Balsamico and Grana Padana and Pumpkin Risotto. The performance pieces are staged in and around gallery locations. These actions have been performed by him in Australia, Austria and England and are absurd and laughable. He holds a newspaper ball in both of his hands above his head or carries it on the back. These actions are documented and become photographic prints for future exhibitions.
The artist has shown his work in galleries and museums, such as Spiro Grace Art Room, Brisbane, Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide, Conny Dietzschold Gallery, Sydney, Lisi Hämmerle Galerie, Bregenz, Austria, Schwartz Gallery, London, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Artspace, Sydney, Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide, Perth Institute for Contemporary Art, Perth, BBK Galerie, Augsburg, Haus Der Kunst, Munich and numerous other venues of importance. Franz Ehmann has had more than fifty solo exhibitions in leading galleries in Europe and Australia. His work has been seen in numerous group shows and at art fairs, such as Melbourne Art Fair, Artstage Singapore and Korea International Art Fair.
Some small thoughts in disproportion to Franz Ehmann’s thinking and being.
Eats and feasts on language in the same way a nine course dinner is devoured.
i wish i was your appetite, your simple deli food, a dish that you enjoy, a feast of grand proportions, a festive meal on a winters day, finger food for cocktail hours, a drink to start the evening, starters in spoons for surprises, oysters, foie gras and white truffles for a french inspired degustation, pizza on the run, a short macchiato for a pick me up and a madeleine to remember things past, … i wish i was
Grows up on the other side of the Arlberg ( mountain between Vorarlberg and Tirol ), where the language is different to all other Austrians.
It happens, life is not a box of chocolates, it happens to be a ‘borscht’ or as they have it in Vorarlberg, ‘Hafaloab, Saure Rüben und Riebel’.
Walks as much as possible. Thoughts come differently when moving. Thinking and moving and or being stationary but still moving in a train or an aeroplane produces different ideas.
Reads Thomas Bernhard only in English. Likes the last will of Thomas Bernhard in that none of his plays and books to be performed nor published in Austria. Reads literature in abundance. What else is on the side of an artist?
Ponders a Socratic model of questioning. All leads to more questions. Is this all there is?
Finds last words and last meals a constant source of encouragement. In the light of this his failings can be perfected and nurtured.
Insists that everything is an existential performance. Producing art, writing, cooking, communication and living.
Holds the view of being a foreigner as comforting. When asked what job he does he replys ‘being a foreigner’ ( Ausländer ). Smuggles ideas into art in the same fashion as one smuggles contraband. Can one smuggle dangerous words?
Instigates incongruities and the failures of actions in life. Mediocrity can wait. A beige world is worse than a bleak world. In his art, humanity, culture and well being attempts a last stand, a last breath, a battle to save what needs to be smuggled out.
Is there a rabbit caught in the headlights? Is it a rabbit pie day or a beautiful rabbit ravioli day? He is the Septemberist and food is essential as is art.
He is thinking and thanking. Assume nothing. This is it, it is what it is, here and now.