life and work

*1953, April 6


Vondal’s oeuvre is dominated by large-format, collage-like works on paper created using pencil, ink, colored pencils, and acrylics in pastel colors. Vondal cuts motifs out of his own existing drawings and glues them on to paper supports in various formats, which are sometimes themselves assembled out of multiple pieces. Alongside collage, we find another stylistic element in his work: the assemblage. Pebbles, toothpicks, and matchsticks form a relief-like surface. Women and eroticism are the dominant themes in the artist’s oeuvre. Under the influence of the 1968 erotic film The Nieces of the Colonel’s Wife – the artist’s formative visual experience – women are attributed an intensely erotic presence in Vondal’s work.

A large portion of his works present hybrid forms of image and text. In creating them, he integrates the textual material into an originally pictorial medium. Our gaze is usually directed toward a main scene in the image; different scenic depictions and texts can be found around it, and these are integrated within a sea of various symbols, such as flowers and hearts. In this way, the artist incorporates himself into the work and cites biographical elements, which he fills out and expands upon. The visual figure Karl becomes a lover, husband, engineer, or prince. If we look behind the scenes – where it is particularly the works’ textual level that sheds some light – another side of his work as an artist reveals itself. It conveys dreams and wishes, deals with the theme of closeness to other people and of relationships with them, and it points to his desire to get away in the form of a yearning for unfamiliar places.

Photography, though not in a traditional sense, is another medium utilized by Vondal. He presents himself together with his art by asking others to photograph him with the artwork or also just the work itself. Here, it is not the result that is important. Instead, it is about the encounter, the exchange, and the passing on of his art. In this way, the photograph becomes the representative of both the artwork and the artist.


Karl Vondal was born on April 6, 1953, in the Lower Austrian town of Obersiebenbrunn. He was the youngest child of a large family, and when he was old enough to stop attending school, he began a three-year apprenticeship as a bricklayer. However, Vondal did not complete his training as a craftsman and worked as an unskilled laborer in construction and the coal trade between the ages of 19 and 20. He became mentally ill during this period and, at 19, he was admitted to the “Lower Austrian State Mental Health and Care Facility at Gugging.” His subsequent chronic illness made it necessary for him to permanently reside in psychiatric institutions. Vondal spent most of this time in Gugging, where his artistic talent was recognized in the eighties. The miniature-like objects he was creating with matchsticks at that time already displayed an individual formal idiom also seen in his drawings from that period. Evidence of this is provided by the fi rst documented works from 1988, in which classic stylistic elements like palm trees, naked women, and houses can already be recognized. Between the 1980s and 2002, when he moved into the House of Artists, Vondal established the basis for his artistic career, as was emphasized through his inclusion in the galerie gugging in 2003.

Since 2002 the artist has worked ceaselessly in both the House of Artists and the open atelier gugging.

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