Margit Preis
and the diversity of styles in Hidden Realism

"Margit Preis lives and works in Vienna and does not follow a distinctive style". Quite an unusual verdict, annihilating from a marketing point of view, yet one that has obstinately persisted for years now.
In fact, the diversity of styles employed by Margit Preis truly is breathtaking. A playful, corporal, even baroque form of cubism co-exists peacefully with impressionist pictures produced on extensive travels. Bold political statements alternate with deities depicted in traditional Balinese style, while the Viennese Actionism movement is reflected in series such as Frohe Ostern (Happy Easter), for which painted male testes served as a model. Margit Preis' portraits remind you of Kokoschka, while her abstract works evoke Russian avant-garde painting. They are complemented by traditional-style nudes, calligraphic gems and, at times, quite simple scenes done in a naïve style. Over the years, different series and various cycles become apparent, with themes like her own family, nature, body organs, self-portraits and Austria.
What message is this woman trying to convey? This is, in itself, the wrong question to ask – Margit Preis cannot be fathomed this easily.
When it comes to creating art, there are two substantially different approaches you can follow – listening and expressing. Margit Preis has always been committed to listening. One who is listening to time, to people and to places cannot always keep painting the same way. Different content calls for different forms. Margit Preis is a "documenteer". She paints what the pictures demand, or, in other words, "the work creates itself": A philosophical concept that cannot deny its origins in Buddhism and Taoism. As early as 1999 Margit Preis and Dominik Dusek put their Manifesto of Hidden Realism to paper: "Hidden Realism is committed to [...] not trying to prove its relation to reality, but instead trusting that it will – inevitably and inexorably – reveal itself from the unashamedly subjective parts that make up the puzzle that is a work of art." [see manifesto]
Margit Preis cannot offer obsessions; she is actually trying to rid herself of them. This adds a remarkable lightness and unpretentiousness to many of her paintings and emphasizes the difference to many other modern artists. Artists whose priority is "expressing themselves" (rather than "listening") tend to employ a style, a motif, a theme and reuse it time and time again. Be it Claude Monet and his water lilies, Arnulf Rainer and his method of painting-over, Hermann Nitsch and his artistic use of blood, Elke Krystufek and her self-portraits or Gerhard Leixl and his tango pictures. These are artists who want to express something, who feel the need to convey a message at all times. In this respect, Margit Preis has a lot more to offer, that makes her more difficult to label, more difficult to sell, and her exhibitions are not predictable at all.
The wide range of styles she adopts and the great variety of (painting) traditions she draws on reflect her deeply post-modernist stance. Being aware of how constructed our concept of "reality" is, while still referencing reality, is a game that leads us back to Taoism and Buddhism on the one hand, and to Umberto Eco and his post-modernist (and easy to read) novels on the other. It certainly is no coincidence that Margit Preis lives at "Melker Hof" in Vienna, given that Eco's Il nome della rosa (The Name of the Rose) features a monk from the Austrian town of Melk. Benedictine novice Adson de Melk likes to refer to himself as student and adlatus, always up to date, providing a sensitive documentation of both ordinary and extraordinary events. He depicts them sine ira et studio, blurring the line between objectivity and subjectivity.
Similar to Umberto Eco, Margit Preis' sense for detail and precision is frequently reflected in her multi-layered work that evokes an enormous surplus of meaning in the onlooker. Which brings us to the conclusion: "Margit Preis lives and works in Vienna, and she is far too good to commit to just one style."

Christian Kniescheck, 2009
Translation by Dagmar Sanjath