GH: That's a very good interpretation. That's actually how I saw it later. Everything is in pink colors and it's very nice with detailed work, so people are drawn in. Then suddenly they realize what they are looking at, and holy shit, but by that time it's too late - you're already in. I had my first exhibition at the Vienna Künstlerhaus with four other artists. I was hanging out and watching people to see how they would react. They would say, "Oh, my God, this guy's sick and insane." Since I was standing there, they had the urge to talk, and they talked to me, not knowing I was the artist.
They would ask: "What do you think? This guy must be insane. He has an obsession. His mind is sick. He's talented, but insane." We would talk about it, and I would say that I'm the artist, and people would say, "Oh, I am sorry." Because I looked like a normal guy, they always wanted to know if I had any traumatic experiences in my childhood. Had I been abused? I would tell them no, I was not abused, and then they would keep asking why. The question was always there. I realized that what people need is an explanation, and then they would be relieved. But you have to deal with it, look at it, and think, and handle it. That's what art is. I've done my 50 percent, but now you must do yours.
The only time I learned something was from naive art lookers, not from professors or art history. I had an exhibition once in a gallery that was in the House of the Press, where all the magazines and papers were printed. Three days into the show I was called and they told me to come pick up my paintings, that the exhibition was over. I didn't understand. I went and the paintings were already off the wall and the curator said I could take them home. No one would tell me why, and then a journalist from the conservative paper came in and asked if I was the guy. He was upset and screaming at me: "You know, because of you I can't sleep at night." He was talking about Peinlich. He said he couldn't get rid of the picture, that it was following him and that he couldn't sleep because of the crap I painted. He asked me why I was doing it, and I said, "Before I answer that, let me ask you a question. Have you been in the last war?" He said, "Yes, sure, everybody was in the war." "Did people die?" "Of course, it's war ... .. Did you kill somebody?" "Probably." "Can you sleep?" "Sure, no problem." Then I asked him, "As a journalist, don't you sometimes get pictures of horrible, mutilated bodies and pictures that you cannot print because they are too graphic?" He said yes. "Can you sleep?" "Sure, no problem - it's part of my profession." I said, "You know what's interesting," and I took the painting and said, "This is cardboard, and there are tiny particles of paint on it. That's all it is. There's nothing else. Isn't it interesting that this robs you of your sleep, but all the real horror that you confronted and participated in has no effect." That is when I realized that the pictures that trouble people are the images that they have buried back in their minds. It's not my piece of paper or canvas at all. It seems that, as an artist, you poke your finger into something that's stashed away. Art was always a dialogue and process for me, the process of getting to the actual painting, and how it is received by the people. Without that process, I would have not painted. I always somehow needed that to continue painting.