If Austria had a soul, Leo Mayr would be one of it’s most accurate und shameless portrayers. No matter the medium, from sculpture to canvas, Leo’s work is uncomfortable in the most wonderful Austrian way. While looking into all these vibrant pop eyes, I can’t stop wondering how much of myself is staring back at me.
Leo was born in Linz/Austria and currently lives and works in Vienna. He has a diploma in Art and Education from the Academy of Fine Art in Vienna and currently studies at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna in the master’s class of Gunter Damisch, Veronika Dirnhofer and Christian Schwarzwald. His work was displayed in several solo shows and numerous group exhibitions in Vienna and Prague.
The Academy says about him (translation by me):
Leo Mayr’s work is about the absurdities of human behaviour and everday life. […] His art deals with issues between the poles of cultural sciences, sociology, psychologie and politics of memory. In a society deeply commited to the pressure of self-optimization and control for the purpose of smooth operation, Leo Mayr adresses the unintended disruptions of the regulated procedures. The eyes and the posture of his figures show the state of freeze in the presence of their daily impertinences.
Leo’s work proves, that the everyday person walking down the street of your hometown, is enough of an unsettling mystery and source of inspiration to make great art. I am very happy that he found the time to answer my four questions:
I call your art unsettling in the most wonderful Austrian way. Do you see yourself and your work in any kind of Austrian art tradition?
An important part of my artistic practice is to observe my environment and the people surrounding me. Since I live in Vienna, I do most of my observing in Austria. And Austria is unsettling in many ways.
I would not assign myself to a specific artistic movement, but there are some Austrian colleagues to whom I feel very close. These certainly include Elisabeth T. Spira and, in relation to his sculptural work, Manfred Deix. They both give space in their work to figures often underrepresented, but without romanticizing them or looking down upon them. Some other Austrian artists my work relates to are Maria Lassnig, or Erwin Wurm. Above all, these are positions that give self-irony and humour an important place alongside serious debate.
In one of your interviews, you stated that the content of your work is „violent“, portraying the „tragedy“ arising from the contrast between the human „need for harmony and the contrasting nature of our behavior“. How much violence is an inevitable part of human existence?
Whether violence is an inevitable part of human existence I cannot say.
The violence I am interested in is more structural in nature. Violence is a driving factor in many stories, from Greek mythology to classic comics. And so it is in mine: In my work I want to tell the stories I see in the people on the street. And in our society, these are often stories of violence.
I believe that these conflicts strongly influence how we behave, how we dress, what hairstyles we wear, the way we touch things, or the objects we surround ourselves with. These ‘fine details’ are taught to us by factors like race, class or gender, and these are concepts mostly enforced by violence in our society. It is an act of violence by Carl Lagerfeld to say that people who leave their house in sweatpants have lost control over their lives. This society never gave them any control from the beginning.
What’s your favorite piece of art from a colleague you own and why?
As with most young artists, my collection, due to lack of budget, consists mainly of works from colleagues and friends that I have received in exchange for my own work. Therefore, many of them have a great emotional meaning for me. The most important one is an ink drawing of a cockroach. But the story seems too personal to tell.
But one of my absolute favourite works is a watercolour drawing by the Salzburg artist Martin Steininger, with whom I shared a studio for some time during my studies. It shows a new car in the showroom of a car dealer. At that time I was in a somewhat idiosyncratic phase and for almost a year I drew and painted nothing but burning cars and car accidents. One day the drawing was lying on my desk on a centimeter high pile of car wrecks.
I know you belong to the dwindling species of hat-wearers. If you could choose one headpiece from a famous person to be in your possession, which would it be?
The choice of my everyday headgear is more in keeping with the style of good old Bertie Brecht. But if I could wish for anything I would like to have one of those borderline fur caps from my favorite British performance-weirdos Gilbert and George.
Find more of Leo’s art…
on his homepage: leomayr.at
on his instagram: @leo.mayr
on facebook: @Leo Mayr
Leo also designed to YOUKI prices 2019 and they did a video portrait of him which you can find on Youtube (German)