Franz Baumgartner's landscapes go against the grain in that they are always devoid of peope and are located in a strange somewhere-or-other. The remarkable aura of time standing still generated by their provocatively unassuming motifs imbue the pictures with a disturbing "still life" quality. Unpretentious locations exude a mysterious solitude, and there is not a single narrative detail to indicate a story behind the picture. Instead, the paintings - which portray a kind of cleansed "basic reality" - possess such an air of strategic emptiness that they invite us to project onto them. The provocatively unspecific element in these deserted scenes has assumed the status of a program. These unspectacular details from reality are essentially a visual excuse for breaking a found reality down into its colors and forms, presenting painting that is essentially addressing itself as its subject, in all its subtle peinture qualities. A banal motif is transformed into a throughly composed artifact before our very eyes on the picture plane. One symptomatic feature is a diffuse "Flemish light" cast on the landscapes of Italian civilization, tending towards grisaille - though on closer examination this impoverished coloring splits up into a whole range of shifting nuances, extending from the gleaming grey of the sky to the leaden hues of a metaled road. Thus Noto shows melancholy distilled into a highly differentiated monochrome picture, based on a lonely stretch of road by the sea. The painting's title refers to a little town on Sicily's Eastern coast, but in Italian it also means "familiar/famous/infamous," providing an ironic contrast to the anonymous everyday subject.
Flash Art, January/February 2003