Deborah Sengl artist

Deborah Sengl

Austria 1974

Installation, Sculpture, Painting

Deborah Sengl
Deborah Sengl
April 8, 2016
Ok, I know it's so damn corny to quote somebody just to describe yourself, let alone Confucius, but this quote says all about my relationship with Widewalls, so forgive me for doing this: Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. Am I forgiven?

Deborah Sengl is an Austrian artist whose paintings, drawings and sculptures pose many questions about the role of individual identity in the modern society. Her creative processes are quite unusual and may sound a bit eerie to the traditional audience, since she is working closely with a taxidermist and using animal skins to create hybrid animal-human forms in her sculptures and installations. The artist said about her projects: I therefore use the animal as a metaphor of human behaviour, because I find that it is distracting when one portrays people – everyone starts to have a subjective view of these people and that is quite distracting.

 essl wien museum terms page news 2014 2013 2014
Deborah Sengl – And Cut, 2012

Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Sengl is interested not only in fine arts, but also  and scene  and costume design. She studied at the University of applied Arts in Vienna and later on at the University of Arts in Berlin. After obtaining her BFA, she worked as a lecturer at Mozarteum in Salzburg, from 2011 to 2013. Her study of costume design influenced her future career as an artist because she has already gained a solid knowledge when is comes to costumography and meanings of masks and avatars in the world of theater.  However, her own art at this point doesn’t have much to do with the theater – what Sengl creates is bizarre, paradoxical, but nevertheless humorous. Her portrayal of human virtues and vices through a peculiar kind of animal masquerade is having many references in literature and history, making her work multidisciplinary and dynamic.

The artist is portraying human virtues and vices through a peculiar kind of animal masquerade

 essl wien museum terms page news
Deborah Sengl – Sich den Luxus erzuechten, 2004

Restaging the First World War

For her debut installation called The Last Days of Mankind, inspired by Karl Kraus’ stage version of the satire with the same name, Sengl used around 200 stuffed rats , in 44 separate installation scenes. The exhibition is closely connected with the 100th anniversary of the First World War and Kraus’s satire captured the absurdity and cruelty of the war so precisely that Viennese artist decided to use his writing as  a reference. She is representing and reinterpreting scenes in the Kraus’ work, especially dialogues, by her installation with rats and additional drawings and paintings. The scenes include streets and courts, hospitals and battlefields. Her work is an artistic interpretation of Kraus’ writing even though modern issues are also present in her pieces. Kraus was more of a starting point for the artist, from which her own elaborate projects continued to develop. I actually always portray only what I experience, what I see in our time, in our society. I don’t invent any extras. Neither did Karl Kraus, said the artist about her debut installation.

For her debut installation called The Last Days of Mankind, Sengl used 200 stuffed rats

Deborah Sengl – Die letzten Tage der Menschheit, 2013-2014

Meaning behind Stuffed Animals

The artist is working with a taxidermist who prepares the rat skins based on her meticulous choices. Sengl decided to use rats as a metaphor for people because she finds them similar to humans in the sense that they are quite selfish animals who think of themselves first. She didn’t pay attention only to her protagonists which are rats, but she also carefully designed small objects such as flags, newspapers, furniture or jewellery, to make her main characters more lively and recognisable. In addition to The Last Days of Mankind, her other important projects were Zebralion from 2003 and Home Story from 2015. Zebralion is dealing with our obsession with brands products and our need and search for material gratification. This is also the artist’s criticism of consumerism, which is bringing us a fake, deceptive sense of safety, dangerous for the overall functionality of the society. In her another series, Home Story, Sengl is telling stories about the strong contrast between luxurious lifestyle and horrible poverty, which are both equally present categories in our world. She is giving an artistic commentary about the lifestyle of those who live at the fringes of society and also about those who are addicted to material goods. She is again using animal forms, such as skulls or stuffed heads in these series – mostly cows and pigs, which again have a strong symbolic value.

Sengl’s innovative works offers commentary on our society and universal issues such as consumerism

Deborah Sengl - Brandladies Louis Vuitton, 2007
Deborah Sengl – Brandladies Louis Vuitton, 2007

Modern Fables for Adults

The artist’s innovative works offer unique, tongue-in-cheek commentary on our society and universal issues such as consumerism, poverty, identity crises and self-esteem. By her clever and audacious usage of stuffed animals, Sengl is, in a way, retelling the fables about basic human values we were told in our childhood. But now we have this special treat of being able to enjoy her dramatic fables for the adults, told by a dozen of various carefully prepared, sometimes eerie but also humorous, animal characters.

The artist is represented by Lisabird Contemporary.

Deborah Sengl lives and works in Vienna, Austria.

Featured image: Deborah Sengl portrait
All images copyright of the artist.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2015Die letzten Tage der MenschheitÖsterreichisches Kulturforum, Bratislava (SK)Solo
2015Home StoryGalerie Deschler, BerlinSolo
2014And cut!Galerie Hilger, WienSolo
2014Die letzten Tage der MenschheitSammlung Essl, KlosterneuburgSolo
2013Via DolorosaGalerie Deschler, BerlinSolo
2013Deborah SenglSt. Peter an der Sperr, Wiener NeustadtSolo
2012Deborah Sengl Kunstverlag Wolfrum, WienSolo
2012Deborah SenglGalerie Hametner, StoobSolo
2011Selig sind die UnwissendenSOART, MillstätterseeSolo
2011His StoryGalerie Walker, KlagenfurtSolo
2011Festival der TiereSammlung Essl, KlosterneuburgGroup
2011Art Austria 2011Galerie Gerersdorfer, WienGroup
2011Es lebe die Malerei!Sammlung Essl, KlosterneuburgGroup
2010Vom Tarnen und TäuschenIFK WienSolo
2010Killed to be DressedGalerie Rohde Contemporary, CopenhagenSolo
2010Hohe TiereCastyourart/Viennafair, WienSolo
2010New DeparturesGalerie Marcus Deschler, BerlinGroup
2010Happy in ViennaGalerie Steinek, WienGroup
2010Raum Situation WirklichkeitGalerie Steinek, WienGroup
2010Walking the dogKunsthalle Dominikanerkirche, OsnabrückGroup
2010RingturmLeopold Museum, WienGroup
2009All you can losenGalerie Steinek, WienSolo
2009Deborah SenglGalerie Hametner, StoobSolo
2009Get ConnectedKünstlerhaus, WienGroup
2009Focus Nature Benediktinerstift Admont, AdmontGroup
2009Art Austria 2009Galerie nGerersdorfer, WiennGroup
2008Nach logos trachtenKreuzgangobergeschoß, Neuberger MünsterSolo
2008Von Schafen und WölfenBurgkapelle, Museum moderner Kunst KärntenSolo
2008Von Schafen und WölfenGalerie Marcus nDeschler, BerlinnSolo
2008Mars en BraconneMediatheque L’ Deschamp, Champniers, FranceGroup
2008KopfstossGalerie Wolfrum, WienGroup
2008Weibsbilder,Galerie Michael Schmalfuß, MarburgGroup
2007MarkenweltenGalerie Lukas Feichtner, WienSolo
2007Logo HeroesGalerie Ranalter, InnsbruckSolo
2007Art Collected + Made for AdmontBenediktinerstift Admont, AdmontGroup
2007CuriousGalerie Marcus Deschler, BerlinGroup
2007EXKLUSIVKunstpavillon, InnsbruckGroup
2006ErtarnungenGalerie Palais Porcia, SpittalSolo
2006Ertarnungen, Galerie tazl, GrazSolo
2006Economy ClassAlliance francaise de Nairobi, KeniaGroup
2006Art award 2006Bauholding, WienGroup
2006WintersettingGalerie Marcus Deschler, Berlin 2006nGroup
2005Ertarnungen IIGalerie Karin Sachs, MünchenSolo
2005Ertarnungen IIIGalerie Lukas Feichtner, WienSolo
2005Aus der SerieGalerie K4, SaarbrückenGroup
2005KoschatzkyMuseumsquartier, WienGroup
2005ReflexionenArt Center, BerlinGroup
2005Choose a shoeGalerie Steinek, WiennGroup
2005219 km Berlin Kunsthalle Rostock, RostockGroup
2004Ertarnungen IIIGalerie Thiele, LinzSolo
2004Dein Schwein ist mein SchweinGalerie Marcus Deschler, Berlin Solo
2004Erzüchtungen & ErtarnungenForum Kunst Rottweil, RottweilSolo
2004PositionenMuseum moderner Kunst, Stiftung Wörlen, PassauGroup
20045 x 5 Skulptur am Pfefferberg IIPfefferberg Haus 2, BerlinnGroup
2003Ertarnungen IIGalerie feichtner&mizrahi, WienSolo
2003ErtarnungenOriontarnungen, Erzüchtungen, Galerie Binz & Krämer, KölnSolo
2003CuriousGalerie Marcus Deschler, BerlinGroup
2003Teddybär & CoGalerie Ernst Hilger, WienGroup
2002ErtarnungenGalerie Karin Sachs, MünchenSolo
2002Eva und die SchlangeGalerie feichtner&mizrahi, SalzburgnGroup
2002Neue RäumeGalerie feichtner&mizrahi, WiennGroup
2001Die Schlange Kupferstichkabinett, WienSolo
2001Fallobst Witz Ironie KunstSammlung Essl, KlosterneuburgGroup
2001Geile Mütter Heilige Huren, Kosmos Group
2000Der Vogel nGalerie Arc, WienSolo
2000JagdTrieb, Schloß Hollenburg, NÖGroup
2000Why NotGalerie feichtner&mizrahi, WienGroup
1995TextilesHeiligenkreuzerhof, WienGroup