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>> Interview: Stan Douglas
>> Select Eclecticism: Karen Kilimnik
>> Elegiac Landscapes: Elger Esser
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Drowning in Décor
Adriana Czernin

Adriana Czernin, untitled, 2006, Deutsche Bank Collection
Courtesy Galerie Martin Janda, Wien

Figures of women drowning in the decorative patterns of the fin de siècle: Adriana Czernin's hyperaesthetic drawings appear to cultivate the tradition of Klimt and Schiele in the present day. Yet despite this, the young Bulgarian artist is not the protagonist of a new retro ornament movement. Kito Nedo met with Czernin, many of whose works are part of the Deutsche Bank Collection, in Vienna.

Adriana Czernin, untitled, 2003
Courtesy Galerie Martin Janda, Wien

Anyone walking from Vienna's Kärntner Strasse towards the Fourth District has to cross Karlsplatz, on one side of which the unmistakable gold-leaf dome of the Vienna Secession building unexpectedly appears. To this day, Gustav Klimt's historical Beethoven Frieze from 1902 can be admired in lower level of the elaborate building, which is known for its progressive contemporary exhibition program. The mixture of heated eroticism, flowing forms, morbidity, and insanity that arose during the heyday of Viennese Modernism, when the old court capital city briefly counted among the artistically and intellectually most influential cities of Europe, still exerts a certain fascination. Even those of us who consider themselves immune against the pathos and decorative gold-studded aesthetic of Viennese Art Nouveau become hopelessly immersed in the ruinous trappings of a bygone era.

Adriana Czernin, untitled, 2004
Courtesy Galerie Martin Janda, Wien

Further along, near the brutal cement architecture of the Technical University, is the apartment of the artist Adriana Czernin. The area, the so-called Free House Quarter near the famous Nasch Market, is characterized by huge buildings dating from the city's early days, galleries, small shops, and breakfast cafés, where the young and beautiful lounge around well into the afternoon, idly leafing through fashion magazines and surreptitiously dreaming of more glamorous cities.

Perhaps it's the foggy, damp January weather that makes the streets seem less picturesque than usual; what they bring to mind today are the battered cities with glorious pasts such as Budapest or Sofia.

Adriana Czernin, untitled, 2005, Courtesy Galerie Martin Janda, Wien

Czernin, born in 1969 in the Bulgarian capital and a resident of Vienna since the early '90s, also doesn't quite match the fantasy one might have concocted of her. Looking at the catalogue she sent prior to our meeting, at the enigmatic scenes in which an expressionless female figure seems perpetually engaged in a mute and hopeless struggle against the greater powers of the ornamentation surrounding her, one might imagine an artist every bit as quiet and pale, perhaps even cloaked in flowing, floral-patterned garments, appearing at the door with an eccentric gesture amid historical furniture from the Viennese workshops. A cool heiress of the great Viennese artist triad of Klimt, Kokoschka, and Schiele – maybe even someone to argue with over the criminal character of the ornament, as the architect Adolf Loos condemned nearly a century ago in this very city in celebrated public lectures.

Adriana Czernin, Lilien, 1999,
Deutsche Bank Collection

Nothing of the sort. Adriana Czernin is a petite young woman with short-cropped hair and an aura of self-confidence. She's wearing jeans, a T-shirt, and a plain blue sweater jacket. The room of the spacious apartment in which our talk takes place is plain and sparsely furnished: there's a table, a few pieces of designer furniture, and a small chest of drawers. Among the street sounds entering the room through a briefly opened window is the sound of a washing machine entering the spin cycle. The walls are bare and lacking in pictures. The only decorative element here is the timber cross on Czernin's T-shirt: entirely direct and without any ornamental qualities.

Adriana Czernin, untitled, 2006
Courtesy Galerie Martin Janda, Wien

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