state of the art 2022

friedrich zettl self portrait 2022

self portrait

As I posted in an earlier post, I used to paint a self-portrait every year and named the series “state of the art”. At some point, I stopped doing it and now have been doing it again for 3 years. And hopefully for as long as I can hold a brush.

friedrich zettl self-portrait


Of course, this project is less about portraying myself as realistically as possible. I would be perfectly recognizable in the picture – it wouldn’t be enough as a passport photo though. On the contrary, it is about my respective “mental state”, my respective world view, my view of myself, and being as a person. And this aspect is, at least for me, subject to ongoing changes. So it makes sense to reflect on it every year.


When I started this work I was immediately very happy with the concept and the first steps and expected a good job. When I continued painting the next day, I was lost. I was annoyed (which rarely happens) because someone tried to cheat me with a nasty trick. (I’m still running my online trade and after 20+ years of doing this, I know basically all the tricks. And this one was a good one. But mostly I was annoyed with myself because I almost fell for it). And so I wasn’t concentrating, didn’t make sure the ink was dry all over the picture and now my stupid fingerprints are all over the bottom part of the picture. Not only can this not be corrected, but above all the depth effect suffers. It’s not that bad, but I hate sloppiness in art.
I went on and tried to salvage what could be salvaged. Well, it has its charms, sure. The painted red elements, which are vaguely reminiscent of Asian characters, stand in attractive contrast to the expressive design of the face.


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14 comments on “state of the art 2022

So interesting – honest self-reflection is always compelling. Thanks for sharing.

Thank you very much! Understanding yourself is difficult enough, showing yourself naked is challenging 🙂

Il y a des chances pour que chacun de nos autoportraits parlent plus sûrement de comment nous nous percevons plutôt que de ce que voient les autres, non? J’ai une théorie sur ce sujet que j’expose dans ma page d’à propos… Et puis l’âge et la vie nous changent parfois du jour au lendemain… Cet autoportrait que vous nous montrez me paraît sombre et mystique, alors que sur votre image d’avatar, un caractère sérieux et avenant m’apparaît, un air docte aussi… Celle-ci m’inspire de la sympathie, celui-là me laisse perplexe.

Merci pour votre avis! Comme dans mes autres peintures, celle-ci contient un certain nombre d’idées difficiles à comprendre pour un étranger qui ne me connaît pas. Il n’est donc pas étonnant que la photo laisse perplexe. J’ai brièvement pensé à écrire quelque chose à ce sujet, mais je n’ai pas pensé que c’était approprié. Je lirai sous peu vos réflexions sur votre blog.

There is a lot of naked beauty in this portrait. To me the expression comes across as surprised agony. I love the colours and the powerful brush strokes.

Thank you very much for your kind words! Sure the current situation had some impact too.

All in all, this is a very dynamic painting. The fingerprints and your disdain for them seem to reflect the incredibly messy age in which we find ourselves. Time’s fingerprints, maybe.

All of my figurative paintings are self-portraits. Only two have started out that way. Sometimes the paintings tell me something I know on some inchoate level and have no words for, an internal struggle or the recognition of a transformative moment or a prevision of a future world.

I seriously DON’T want to paint anything deep or meaningful, but it can happen anyway. Perhaps for you, too, there is something in the space between your eye/mind/brush and what appears on the surface.

“Perhaps for you, too, there is something in the space between your eye/mind/brush and what appears on the surface.”

Absolutely!! For most of us it is relatively understandable when we hear that a sculptor gets in contact with his stone, waits anxiously what his stone has to tell him and then sets about carving out the promised treasures.
There are also painters who cannot paint on a white canvas because it has nothing to tell. And I too prefer a rough primer, e.g. in gray, so that there is something that enables communication with the painting surface.

We can all take comfort in the fact that our lives are works in progress.

Yes, but as long as we see some progress all is fine, I think. Normally we tend to presume that progress will slow down when we reached a certain age but I think that must not necessarily be the case.

Friedrich – there are no mistakes it seems. Keeping the fingerprints is the best decision <3. Thanks for the insight into you.

Thank you, Carolyn for your words of relive. I quite often criticize my own paintings when I finished. After a couple of weeks I learn to live with the flaws 😊

Excellent work.
I especially like the contrast of colours and forms. The basic image made of greys and browns being in contrast to the red and straight forms.

Thank you very much! I am happy you enjoy this play of contrasts.

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