Bruno Kurz: Translucent Horizons

Tenya Mastoras
Jun 3, 2016 6:55PM

Argyll and Hebrides Cycles

The Argyll (2012) and Hebrides Cycles (2001 and 2012) were inspired by two journeys Bruno Kurz made in the winter of 1999 and 2012 to the Hebrides, a cluster of islands off the coast of Scotland. 

Winter Gales – In winter months Atlantic storms pound the western coast of Scotland and the days are short. Light changes quickly, clouds dart overhead, winds howl, tempestuous seas surround sparsely populated isles. These are the impressions that inspired the new Argyll Cycle (2012). (‘Argyll’ was the name of an early modern Scottish duchy and in Gaelic means ‘Coast of the Gaels’.) The series is characterized by expressive paintwork in which cracked surfaces, layers of colour and traces of pastose serve as contrast to a metallic background. Horizontal layers provide the colours a clear compositional order. 

The recent works from the Hebrides Cycle exude again their typical sense of contemplative calm. At the same time, their colour space appears to pulsate in fields of light. (Several paintings in this series are named after Lucifer, a deity in Roman myth who personified the Morning Star and whose name means ‘Light-Bringer’.) Reflective surfaces – consisting of resin, India ink glazes or transparent silk gauzes layered over a vertically delineated metal background – afford the works a striking luminosity and shimmering colour spectrum. Depending on the incidence of light and position of the viewer, the paintings may be perceived in a variety of ways. The multiple viewpoints offered by the works are the hallmark of their vitality.


Bruno Kurz’s paintings are bulwarks of soft power against a Zeitgeist infatuated with speed, sensationalism and materialism. Unspectacular and low key, their quiet yet forceful subtlety contains a spiritual calm that filters out the din of the everyday. They demand a deliberate, introspective scrutiny that resists the hurried glances of consumer culture. To experience Kurz’s paintings in true form, the beholder must calibrate him- or herself to their frequency, adapting the body’s inner sensors to their delicate pulsations. As suggested by the titles of several works in Kurz’s older series, these works are membranes, but they also require that we allow the sound of silence to permeate through us, as if we too were membranes. The reward for success is balance, peace, and an expanding sense of calm. Kurz’s paintings teach us to pause, be still, and rediscover the neglected inner organ German Romantics called ‘sensitivity’ (Empfindsamkeit). This spiritual ability is what the Romantics sought to achieve at any cost – be it in love, in nature or in religion – and what Kurz’s work seeks to reanimate in us. 

- Dr. Barbara Regina Renftle, Foundation S BC - pro arte, Biberach

I create slow paintings

Bruno Kurz’s images don’t approach the beholder, but demand the beholder’s attention and time. ‘I create slow paintings’, says Kurz about his work, signalling an unambiguous rejection of current trends and brash provocations. The quiet mood of his works results from their integrity, from their restrained composition and from the intentionally unspectacular nature of their subjects: landscape and colour. Despite their modest harmonies, the works of Bruno Kurz are true bundles of energy. Their dynamism derives not only from the virtual effects of vibration in the paintings but also from the actual movement of the beholder. Perspectives change, foreground becomes background, near becomes far, up becomes down, and the other way around. The viewer is at once in, before and behind the painting. Through his work, Bruno Kurz proves himself a true magician of light, subordinating space, colour and contours entirely to light. Everything is in light and filled with light. 

- Dr. Sabine Heilig, art historian

The gentle play of opposites

A gentle play of opposites runs through the entirety of Bruno Kurz’s oeuvre. This is not only evident in the juxtaposition of horizontal and vertical layers, but also visible in the paradox that Kurz’s works are at once material and ethereal. They always begin as an experiment with medium in an investigation of the materiality of the artist’s means – metal sheets, synthetics, acrylics, oil colours and resins. Kurz’s works are assemblages, strata, and combinations of unusual materials, which in their execution, visually mingle without fusing. At the same time, Kurz’s works are exercises in dematerialization, lightness, transparency, distance and dissolution. This transformation of classical canvas paintings into objects that seem to float in mid-air – objects whose surfaces thematize dematerialization by means of subtle colour transitions and fine silk sheens – is made possible by the many years spent studying material, colour and light – the three central themes of his work. 

- Dr. Barbara Regina Renftle, Foundation S BC - pro arte, Biberach

Unmistakable handwriting

Horizontal partitioning and a multiplicity of materials are the unmistakable marks of Bruno Kurz’s artistic handwriting. Dynamic linear forms and transparent colours give his geometric forms lightness, while a subtle selection of colours and material lends the surfaces shimmering liveliness. So the original, well-defined linear compositions of paintings change into vibrating, evolving and therefore not clearly definable colour spaces. These poetically sublimated surfaces at times convey the impression of intangibility and immateriality – an artistic attitude that owes itself to temporal duration and constantly changing perception. Kurz’s works display qualities such as continuity and workmanship, aura and authority, authenticity and sensuality. 

- Dr. Barbara Aust-Wegemund, art historian, Hamburg


The painter Bruno Kurz confronts light as if in a different dimension, taking a scientific-like approach. The horizontal layering of light and colour – his work’s dominant ordering principle of horizontal stratification of different light and colour zones– conveys a geology of light whose rationality and analytic rigor can be felt despite fluid transitions, pulsing swells and fading moments of intensity. Yet Kurz is not a scientist, but a painter, working directly with hands and materials, methodically and experimentally in tandem. His artistic process – applying layers of colour glazes and resins to metal, canvas or wood – strives again and again toward the same objective: making light tangible – soaking it up and letting it ooze out so that illuminated colours are transformed into pure light. 

- Ernst W. Schneider, Artist and Gallery Director, Karlsruhe

An Abstract Impressionist in the tradition of Turner and Monet

In the work of Bruno Kurz, colour is light. Surfaces shimmer, come to life, pulsate and produce atmospheric spaces of colour. Sensitive differentiations in surface gradients exude depth and simplicity at once. With masterly confidence, Kurz produces finely nuanced colour cadences and sharply bounded counterpoints – graceful colour compositions comparable to a musical play. The fracturing of light by colour and textured surface, created by finely woven threads of gauze and silk in the grounding and surface glaze, elicits immaterial contours in the eye of the beholder. The resulting interactions between fabric, colour, glaze and light form a dynamic matrix of constantly changing oscillations in hue. 

- Lena Naumann, mundus: Art and Cultural world of Munich, 3/2010

Tenya Mastoras