The perennial question of the image
Michael Endlicher’s Votive Paintings

Naturally, every good story is both image and idea, and the more intimately the two are intertwined the better the solution to the problem.
(Guy de Maupassant)

By the same equation, every good image is both story and idea. And the more intimately the two are intertwined the better the solution to the problem of defining the image. In his work, Michael Endlicher uses this juncture of concept and painting, of idea and image, as his point of departure, or rather the encounter simultaneously serves as the starting-point, proposition, approach, and goal of his work. What supports the inner coherence between the image and the word? What axioms and reciprocal relationships tie them together or set them apart? What is the meaning of the ‘image’? As painting, idea, metaphor, or vision? And how “reliable” are words as such?
When he created the first of his Votive Paintings, Michael Endlicher took the term “panel painting” quite literally. Heavy as marble panels, with the monochrome tones of law tablets,
the have an almost religious presence, the words inscribed, chiselled or burned into them. Words, not so much as a visualisation of language but rather as a way of defining the emergence of images. Words as a constituent part of some future, yet to be realised painting.
The words remain immaterial and generate space on a formal as well as on a conceptual level. The reciprocal relationship between the two words (geographical, historical, spiritual-religious, mundane, musical, absurd-associative,…) or dates opens up the space that generates the images.

While these early works are still dominated by an almost unbroken trust in the power of such antithetical „four letter words“, the balance gradually tilts towards a more painterly outlook. Even so, it is obvious that the playful approach towards language remains as gratifying as before. However, the focus shifts to the relationships between words, colours, and shapes; the principle of “colour” versus “non-colour”, the punched-out letters; the contest between “concept” and “painting”.

Nor did Michael Endlicher prove himself less ‘literal-minded’ in regard to the pictures’ objective dimension: it is the viewer who decides which way is up when he hangs the picture, thereby determining the words’ legibility. As a consequence, the viewer finds himself “addressed” directly, challenged, as well as involved in the open process of determining the painting itself. At the same time this reflects a reminiscence of the religious votive painting: the artist promises paintings to those who take on their share of the work that produces the art work.


Brigitta Höpler, art historian, collaborations with various artists, texts and children’s books on the subject of art.