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Klosterneuburg Abbey Museum

What is sorry

What does suffering make of a person? How does a person behave in the face of suffering? Suffering can break – but it can also strengthen because it brings you closer to God. Works from seven centuries on this subject can be seen.

The exhibition “what is sorry” leads us through six chapters through the themes of expulsion from paradise, martyrdom, doubt, mourning and repentance to consolation and hope. The exhibits put together for this purpose date from seven centuries, from the Gothic manuscript of the early 15th century to works that were created especially for the exhibition. There are leading figures from the Christian pictorial tradition such as Job, Christ on the Mount of Olives, the Pieta, holy martyrs, repentant Peter, the depressed King Saul, but also patron saints and the guardian angel. The juxtaposition of old, classically modern and contemporary art opens up a unique arc of tension through art and cultural history.

The exhibition was supported by numerous artists with works that were partly inspired by radical personal experiences and that find extremely individual approaches to the subject of >>suffering<<. There are works by Linde Waber, Julia Faber, Simon Schober, Michael Endlicher, Thomas Naegerl, Hans Robert Pippal, Susane Geister and many others in the exhibition. Especially between the works from different epochs there are often astonishing parallels that show that the subject of >>suffering<< is a phenomenon that has affected and moved people at all times across all cultures and worldviews.

The artists Franziska and Mercedes Welte from Feldkirch in Vorarlberg are showing their work from 2004.


…Still warm but far away
where are you going?
will we meet again
miss you…
Are we going into the light? Is there someone who is waiting for
us? Will we be able to “see” it or only
feel? We don’t want to know… or do we?
Screen prints 200 x 100 cm Screen prints 2004 – owned by the artists.
Text: BA Gertraud Kamml
The work consists of three banners with three faces, in different representation. The work is laid out as a triptych and, as is it embedded in the apse-like arched niche, it has a solemn temple character.
The connecting element between the three faces is the nun’s veil, which covers the head protectively. On the third face a diaphanous, net-like veil spreads over the face.
The veil brings a mysterious, sacred component to this work.
The white face is designed as a factory entrance. Faced frontally towards the viewer, it faces the opposite with tightly closed eyes. Blackened eyelids with drawn accents of color convey heaviness, sadness and immeasurable suffering, due to the loss of the loved one. This great heartbreak is perceived by the viewer with all of their senses.
The white flesh looks pale and lifeless. It stands allegorically for those people who have to leave this world. The morbid smell of transience and death in the spirit of the baroque momento mori intrudes into the room. Insecurity and fear of one’s own mortality flow through the viewer’s emotional world; the border between this world and the hereafter opens up blurred before the spiritual eye.
Closing the deceased’s eyes in preparation for the final rest is one of the tender rituals when saying goodbye.
Closed eyes bring peace of mind for the final rest. The aura of eternity transfigures space and saturates it in fine waves with the ether of eternity of the universe.
Die Aura der Ewigkeit verklärt den Raum und durchtränkt ihn in feinen Wellen mit dem Äther der Ewigkeit des Universums.
More and more the soul detaches itself from the body and gets ready for the journey into the vastness of the cosmos, full of brightness and light.
Is there a reunion?
The color white stands in the Revelation according to John (Rev 22:12) for Alpha and Omega and symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In the right pupil, on closer inspection, the red colored lines reveal the outline of a newborn.
Will there be a return?
The second face nestles in the niche, which is set back a little, like an altarpiece. It is framed by a purple veil. There is an airy expanse at the top.
The red brings warmth and confidence to the chapel-like room situation.
Red also stands for eruptive emotional arousal. The porcelain-white complexion appears fragile and delicate. Play of light and shadow paired with the silence of the place emphasize the solemn sacred arrangement.
The incarnate is whitewashed and gives off the smell of lifelessness and pain. The iconography of the “7 Sorrows of Mary” plays a role here. The Vesper image of the Pieta is a symbol of the suffering of the Blessed Mother after the loss of her beloved son through death on the cross.
In Christian iconography, the color red refers to the Passion of Christ and the pain of the Blessed Mother: “A sword will go through your soul,” is written in the Gospel according to Lucas – (Lucas 2:35).
The intense purple is the color of the rules. Purple is precious and conveys strength and power. The manufacturing process from the purple snail is already described in detail by Pliny in his Naturalis historia.
The transcendent light situation brings in a mystical component that stimulates synesthetic perception.
The face looks at the viewer with slightly open eyes and encourages self-reflection of one’s own Nietzean soul landscape.
The third banner present a brightly lit face in three-quarter view. A transparent fluffy veil covers the face. The veil reveals where it appears to be veiled. Lucas Cranach masterfully perfected this trick of staging the veil. The artist couple Christo and Jeanne-Claude have been realizing their spectacular wrapping projects since the 1960s. The transparent, extremely fine veil emphasizes the erotic character of a representation.
The veil is more of a means of disclosure than one of covering.
The vulnerability and delicacy of the emotional world is emphasized.
The diamond-shaped grid conveys restlessness and uncertainty.
The net as a veil creates distance and does not allow a clear view of what is approaching. It symbolizes the uncertain new that awaits in the deceased in the hereafter.
6 / Kandinski, On the Spiritual in Art. especially in painting. Munich 1911
7 / Compare: Werner, Elke, Anna. The Veils of Venus. On a metaphor of seeing in Licas Cranach the Elder, in: Cranach the Elder. Catalog on the occasion of the exhibition in the Staatl. Museum, Frankfurt aM-2008, p. 99-209
8 / Goldberger, Paul, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, 2019