Dr. Klaus Albert Schröder
Director of the Albertina, Vienna
In the course of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the AMFPA in May 2007 an international art exhibition with 274 works by mouth and foot painters took place at the Albertina in Vienna. At the opening ceremony for the exhibition the director of the museum gave an address in which he voiced his opinion on the extraordinary artistic achievements of the AMFPA artists.
You can read the full version of the preface to the exhibition catalogue here:
Dr. Klaus Schröder
Art has always enriched the mind of Man. It helps us to make our lives more bearable and beautiful and enables us to look at it afresh and evocatively again and again. The artists themselves, however, are driven people: their main reason for creating their works is not to give us pleasure. They “must” express their emotions and give form to the life that they are experiencing. They need artistic skill and creativity in order to be able to survive. For mouth and foot painters, however, their artistic skill has an additional, truly vital significance.
In human life, both in medicine and in art, a failure of certain organs or abilities, and also of mobility, leads to a heightening of performance in other areas, not least that of creativity. So a failure of this type does not just become a dreadful loss, it can also have a positive effect and lead to new things. Mouth and foot painters were often not artistically active before they lost the use of their hands. The difficulties of their fate has been the foundation of a new sensibility that is today their livelihood, both mentally and financially.
Our history of art is frequently told from the point of view of the recipients. It describes the effect of the works of art on the observer, rather than mainly from the point of view of the artist. Also, as little as twenty years ago a totally different contemporary concept of art was prevalent. Much of what was not part of established, Western modern art was considered provincial or amateurish. And yet art has always been “a matter of agreement” and this is truer than ever today. The art world is continually changing from within contemporary art. Contemporary art has become its own yardstick.
Even the great masters of the 20th century often had to, or wanted to “unlearn” their skills first in order to find new methods. Children’s drawings, folk art, art by the mentally handicapped, works by African and Oceanic masters became strong influencing factors. Mouth and foot painters demonstrate the exact opposite of this development. They had to learn completely new painting techniques in order to acquire their artistic skill in a dual sense. Their performance, their creativity came about as an opportunity and as a replacement for the loss of a physical ability. Overcoming fundamental difficulties creates an individual concept of art. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing posed the question whether Raphael would still have been a great artist if he had not had any hands. His answer was Yes, Raphael would still have been the genius, the extraordinary master that he was. We would simply have found it much harder to share in his genius and to spot it. Mouth and foot painters have found a way of transposing what has formed within themselves. This enables them to secure their existence so that they can devote themselves to their art free of deprivation and worry. All of our lives are richer as a result.