If the purpose of abstract art is to create a composition that exists with a degree of independence from visual references in the world, then Viennese king of abstract Otto Zitko, has achieved that in droves.

His work is unique and epitomizes the very essence of abstract in that they principally consist of lines travelling in all directions be it horizontal, vertical or circular and of varied density, seemingly in a random pattern. The truly unique feature however is that the canvas is the walls and ceilings of the buildings in which his work is housed. Bristol’s very own Arnolfini down on Narrow Quay is the latest to have Gallery 1 as well as its halls decked with the great man’s free handed improvised visual scribbles.

 Otto Zitko Gets Abstract at The Arnolfini is however more than just a few randomly scrawled lines up and down walls. They form part of an exhibition entitled “Me Myself and I” an exploration of the individual’s relations to the world testing the boundaries of our psyche. In contrast, there is also a display of work by the late Louise Bourgeois, who through her own abstract style explored the deeply complicated nature of personal relationships.

Lines and Boundaries – Otto Zitko

Staring intently at the stand white canvas with a random scribbling of blue and black lines I did question myself “What is it I am supposed to see?” The more intensely I gazed however I soon realised that there was more to this than just random lines. The varied shade and thickness of the lines are drawn in such a way that it brings the stark white of the canvas they are composed on, to the fore. This effect can be further felt as you follow his work through the halls and stairways of the building.

As your eye gently follows the lines, you might find yourself mentally untangling them like you would your Christmas lights that have been languishing in storage. It is human nature to unravel things that are seemingly tangled in amongst which an image formulates. In this regard Zitko has succeeded, as I found myself not just viewing his work but interacting with it. Even from a purely aesthetic view, the vibrant blue against the stark white is pleasing to the eye, and adds real decorative character to the building. I am still unsure as to how this defines my relationship with the world.

Complex Relations – Louise Bourgeois

This half of the exhibition is made up of sixty drawings entitled Je T’Aime and focuses on the centrality of relationships and what it is to be human. It is difficult to detail the specifics of these works without giving away the exhibition’s content. There is however one piece featured, a drawing from 1946 which depicts one person being consumed by a much larger person. The plethora of metaphors on the nature of relationships can be quite staggering and there is much to be sought from this work alone.

The other sixty pieces seem to follow the path of human relations, but whether this is a chronological journey leading to an inevitable end, or a multitude of possible outcomes, I guess is down to the viewer. Je T’Aime is quintessential Abstract in how it manages to challenge perceptions.

Me Myself and I will be on show at the Arnolfini until Sunday 4th July.

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