Monika Pichler  

Nut and Brains

By Paolo Bianchi

"Hanging on the tree, the walnut is enclosed in a fleshy green hull that bursts when it falls from the tree," noted Monika Pichler. The walnut is a drupe. In literature the nut/walnut/almond is used as a symbol for the human being. Then the green hull serves as a symbol of the flesh, the hard shell as a symbol of the bones, and the sweet core as a symbol of the soul. As a symbol of Christ, the bitter tasting hull embodies the flesh of Christ that suffered the bitter passion, the shell the wood of the cross, and the core that nourishes and enables light with its oil stands for the divine nature of Christ.

In her work, Monika Pichler (*1961), textile artist from Linz, links nuts and brains. The fatty acid contained in walnuts ensures a smooth transmission of nerve impulses in the brain. Nuts support the hormone-containing substance prostaglandin – the grease for mental and memory performance. The nut as a sweet fruit in a hard shell is regarded as a symbol of what is essential and spiritual, what is hidden behind the exterior, just as the human nature of Christ hides his divine nature. In antiquity the nut/almond was seen as a symbol of pregnancy and fertility, because of its protected and hidden core. For this reason, it was scattered at weddings. The edible nut first has to be separated from the shell, which is why the nut is also considered a symbol of patience. The oil derived from the almond/nut had a phallic significance for the Greeks and was considered the semen of Zeus.

If Monika Pichler has taken an outward bound path in recent years, to traveling women like Ida Pfeiffer or Annemarie Schwarzenbach, this determined exteriority is now followed by an interiority that is no less decided. The perspective has changed. Her female figures demanded a sympathetic look at the story told. With "Nuts & Brains" the viewers themselves end up in the perspective of the depiction. The picture of the nut is the brain of the viewer. We observe the observer in ourselves. We listen to what is said to us by what we have seen.

With the journeys and books of her divas, Monika Pichler focused the viewers' interest on what was shown. With "Nuts & Brains" the artist aims at the viewers' reaction, the sensations that are triggered by what we see. The motifs and patterns of the "Nuts & Brains" stimulate our "memory depots", trigger images in us, open up a scope of movement that the picture leaves us: in this is where the "image of the viewer" takes place. The sight of "Nuts & Brains" is simply looking without judging. The image of the viewer is generated as a view without intentions. This devotion is directed entirely to the life unfolding in the depicted things.

If the majority of fabric designers embrace abstract patterns, the textile artist Monika Pichler cultivates a manner of dealing with all that is figurative, which has become contemptible through familiarity. With her works on travelling women or the aprons collaged with pictures, Pichler looked into the past. Now the "Nuts & Brains" are directed to the future.

© Paolo Bianchi, cultural journalist, Baden/Schweiz, 2004
(from: Monika Pichler, Nüsse und Hirne, Documentation to the exhibtion Galerie am Stein, Schärding, Austria, 2004)