another one of those

in the woods artwork by friedrich zettl

and again some reflections on it

Today I would like to present a newer painting and originally I had no intention of writing about it, at least almost. Why this? This is related to a new, very pleasant acquaintance I made recently.


A customer, Robert, had ordered some graphics online and came by with his charming wife to pick them up. And that was a very remarkable encounter.


Robert stands out because of his imposing appearance. A person who sends out strength not only from his external appearance, but from his whole being. Today he lives with his wife in Dubai and until recently had run a gallery in Spain (here is the link), a very special one, which among other things, also impresses by it’s architecture. Robert is also a painter. Though his work is quite different from mine, we were on the same wavelength from the start. All the more so since he is also an excellent connoisseur of Chinese antiques. And since I surround myself with Chinese antiques lavishly, there was a lot to talk about.


He came across my blog and noted on my (unusual) attempt to discuss, analyze and interpret my work myself that he would never do that, as it was the “secret” that every viewer should fathom for himself, would be ventilated uselessly.

in the woods artwork by friedrich zettl
in the woods

Of course, this view has something of its own, and when I started my blog I considered and weighed up whether this makes sense at all. Actually, I don’t think it harms the “secret” aspect. I think a lot of my work has a lot of mystery about it. Nor do I reveal anything in the sense that anyone could go and imitate me. Rather, I have developed a technique that on the one hand opens up many design possibilities, but on the other hand is very difficult to get a grip on.

So should I comment at all? And if, what is really important to the viewer?
The title? Not really.


The “environment” of the picture? Rather, maybe: After a series of pictures that have captured everything that a landscape can show from heaven over earth to water, I created this work as a counterpoint: out of the open landscape and into the mysterious forest, a microcosmos of it’s own. The main ideas are quite similar in both series though.

Since I am more of the philosophical type, philosophical ideas are naturally reflected in my work. So I would like to pay a little attention to one or two of them.


A European philosopher, with Austrian roots BTW, Paul Watzlawick wrote: “You cannot not communicate, because all communication (not just words) is behavior and just as you cannot not behave, you cannot not communicate.”


I can very well remember how big the response to his book was – and yet it’s just old wine in new bottles. But no matter, quintessence: The moment I put a picture like this online, I am already communicating with you. And – following Watzlewecks thoughts – I express behaviour. Now I can just show the picture alone, but I can also verbally convey ideas processed in it. I think that makes sense. What is basically fine and also works well with abstract images is that everyone can reflect in their own way. And we agree that what you see in it and what Ms. Li in Shanghai sees in it can naturally be two different things.


Now if I just cite this one idea of ​​communicating by Watzlaweck, a certain impulse is triggered in the viewer. Suddenly he / she no longer just sees different elements in the picture, but first pays attention to the communication between the determining elements and, on further observation, discovers that even insignificant details communicate with each other and this way create someting bigger. Even more, that the painting just would not work without communication. Unfortunately so-called abstract pictures that build on effects only without creating a conceptual superstructure, miss to transport thoughts and therefore miss to be thought-provoking.


What does my conceptual superstructure look like? Very difficult to tell in a few sentences and it is not necessary or possible to dissect every aspect. If I succeed / have succeeded in providing the inclined viewer with an aid with which he / she can reflect on thoughts such as communication (like in this ccase), that’really s wonderful for me. The rest is up to the viewer.

One e.g. may think, signing the picture in Chinese is a trick, or the painter wants to signal “Hey look, I can speak Chinese too!” But he / she now can just as well understand this “trick” as pointing to communication between the Asian and Western thinking in this painting and in general. And possibly, as tried in this picture, the moderately beautiful can convey more than the absolutely beautiful which eventually might make us think and reflect about the term “beautiful”. (Each of us can paint a bouquet of red roses and be sure that the majority of viewers would then describe the picture as beautiful. It is much more difficult though to paint a garbage can and still manage to create beauty). Someone else may use the picture to reflect on humility, and someone else may use it to reflect on mindfulness.

But if you’ve read this far, you know this all anyway.


More works: portfolio

Zettl Friedrich

alive and well and having fun

9 comments on “another one of those

I believe it’s OK for the artist to comment on her/his works. This gives the viewer a starting point of reference. From this, the viewer can expand the vision onto one’s own point of view and feelings. I usually ponder a painting or drawing first, then read an artist’s commentary (if any).

Thank you! Yes, basically the same here. But as a painter, I’ve always been intrigued by how a painter came to what result. After reading van Gogh’s letters to his brother, for example, I found additional access to his works. And after studying Picasso’s Meninas series I then better understood the original painting by Velazquez.

Of course one can also approach pictures completely openly, that’s just as ok.

I’ve read a selection of van Gogh’s letters and they shed a lot of light on the thinking behind his paintings.

When I was young I read the whole correspondence with Theo – 4 volums. blogging in an early stage, so to say. Now when we see his paintings then we feel so familiar with some aspects of his life and work…

The mystery of reality is part of reality itself; part of what it communicates. What if nothing really „means“ or „signifies“ anything beyond its presence? What if existence is sufficient to meaning? Your forest beckons, but the black shape between the viewer and the forest is very forbidding. Does that mean something? It means I should not think of going in? or that I need courage to enter? I don’t know, but I’m not going in. The thing about communication is its impossibility. I’ve painted things I don’t even understand, images that accurately depict places I had not (yet) seen. This is why I think when I approach the canvas, a lot more is going to happen than I know going in or might even know when I’m finished.

As always you sensed very well. I probably will add it to my Coroner series. Restrictions, fear, unknown dimension…..Need to think about that.
Great topics you raised! Some day we will understand that all 😄

Definite a Corona painting. I felt that way many many times. Perfect.

Dear Fredrich Zettl,

It is impossible to eliminate the “mystery”. In the first place, the artist always creates more than he/she has planned. The work is greater than the conception, yet personally I enjoy hearing about your musings as I see your pieces. In the second place we all bring a different world composed of personal experience, culture, and even mood of the moment to any viewing. I comment on the written word and I have never read an article or a story that has not led me to different depths upon each reading. Almost like contemplating infinity.

Dear Ana Hernandez,

Thank you for your answer and your wise words. I think, in principle, I see it the same way. If a viewer allows him/herself to get involved with a work, it her/is his culture, thinking, experience, mindset … that show her/him something, which she/he then translates and brings into shape so to say.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: