life and work

*1971, August 31


Laila Bachtiar’s oeuvre encompasses two drawn worlds: one in color and one gray. However, they are closely bound up with one another and grow out of the same source – a framework of lines. The drawn lines generate shapes or, rather, building blocks, which then combine to form a motif and are subsequently transected by other lines. The strokes themselves are not simply just lines; instead, they breathe life into what she has drawn. At the same time, they are reminiscent of the graphic record of a weak pulse. However, the structures created in this way do not stand on their own, they are filled in: since 1990 with color and, since 2003, sometimes also with pencil only. In her early work, the pencil lines of the underlying framework can still be very clearly recognized, and each of the shapes lying on top of them is marked with colors that are different, but remain transparent. Beginning in 2001, the colors become much more intense and almost opaque. She also began creating more works that fill the entire picture plane. The drawings done purely in pencil since 2003 unleash the possibilities of the pencil in all its facets. Chromatic nuances from black to light gray generate a dynamic network of forces; compositions of this kind are among the most strongly expressive works in Bachtiar’s oeuvre. Sometimes the shapes are hatched in a way that suggests a depiction of a modifi ed honeycomb structure. The artist signs her works with her fi rst name written in capital letters and also adds numbers, although these do not represent a date. Instead, they are related to a coding system, which is known only to Bachtiar and establishes personal points of reference in relation to the work. Since the beginning of her graphic oeuvre, Bachtiar has had one central theme: the animal kingdom. In the small- and medium-format pictures, we find indigenous animals (cats, ducks, and rabbits) as well as exotic animals (dolphins, elephants, and predators). These are joined by depictions of people (usually shown frontally), objects, and nature. Bachtiar works from memory and only very rarely makes use of any model when beginning on a work. Details, such as a cat carrier, are often not even visible for viewers, because her work’s content often disappears behind the dense drawing that characterizes Bachtiar’s unmistakable art.


Laila Bachtiar was born into a family of musicians in Vienna on August 31, 1971. Her mother is a cellist and her father, who has Afghan roots, studied singing, piano, and trumpet. Bachtiar has exhibited autistic behaviors since her childhood. From 1978 to 1989, she attended three special-education schools, and her artistic talent was already recognized there. Beginning in 1989, she lived in various group homes, before she moved back in with her parents in 1994. She first began visiting the House of Artists in Gugging in 1990, and she pursued her artistic calling there. Since 2003 she has been working on her often time-consuming artworks in the studio next to the House of Artists, the open atelier gugging.

The artist is represented by the galerie gugging, and she has had works in the museum gugging since 2012.

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