When it comes to paint, I‘m not so much interested in the reproduction of reality or what we know. What really catches my interest is the perception and the idea of something, because we might think we know. Therefor my images for example do not need a correct perspective, that does not matter. On the contrary, it simply points all the more clearly to a misunderstanding: painting is never beholden to our reality, each painting creates its own individual reality.
A painting can be just “right” without having to be correct. In my paintings I am quite deliberately returning to a demarcation line, dealing with the point where painting is gradually breaking away from the reproduction of reality and has begun again to make assertions from within itself.

Fabian Treiber

Fabian Treiber paints interiors and exteriors. They are, in a curious way, slightly out of focus and their surfaces are cool, almost unapproachable. Somehow shimmering. They want to be looked at with a sauntering eye: sometimes lingering here and sometimes there, on this or that painterly element. Yet it’s hard to discern, at first glance, just how Fabian Treiber paints. And it’s certainly not clear to what extent these pictures can be defined. For example, whether a rich impasto form sitting on top of a very thin stain, like a blob of painted cookie dough, can even be put into words. Fabian Treiber’s paintings seem to play with the idea that this doesn’t really work.

In purely formal terms, he has devoted himself to the classical subjects of interiors, still lifes, and landscape painting, and uses these to question subjective projections and our perception of memory and reality in his paintings. In doing so, Treiber, always makes his decisions in the paintings formally and not narratively. In addition, he constantly focuses unique changes of direction and unrepeatable coincidences. Thereby, he provokes the deliberate break in order to declare even the supposedly false to be the unique quality of painting itself – with the effect that his works are somehow resistant and reconciliatory at the same time.

More Feeling

Frederike Ebert, Cologne (DE)


Treiber’s tools range from brush and stencil to air brushes. Layer by layer, Treiber applies fine glazes using highly pigmented acrylic inks and paste-like masses of paint. His large-format works seem like representations of objects, but the artist’s focus is less on the pure reproduction of reality and rather on recreating his memory thereof and the feeling thus induced—in other words, the transfer of feeling that lies beneath the surface. “It might sound absurd, but my declared goal is by no means the interior or the painting of interiors; it is rather a turning toward the painted object”, says Treiber.

Rooms and objects always grow during the painting process. The flat-looking composition of the picture, the abandonment of a stringent perspective, and the play with varying proportions that appear to be “wrong” show the depicted as an artistic composition and a recreation of a reality that is not factual. Nevertheless, by positioning different objects alongside each other and placing them on top of each other, abstract forms become objects with strange functions. “North on my compass for good paintings is actually always the ‘strange,’ the positively disturbing, and often the ‘awkward,’ something with a certain resistance. Something that shows me I’m dealing with an entity.” This impression also comes to mind when looking at Treiber’s latest cycle of works, which raises questions rather than providing answers. When does an object as such become readable, become a projection screen? What triggers the affect we feel? Treiber’s painting is concerned with this balancing and shifting of the demarcation line that seems to determine our perception and feeling while at the same time always showing us we are dealing with a painted and thus distinct reality. 

Fabian Treiber, born 1986, studied painting and intermedia design at the Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design. He was awarded the Karl Schmidt-Rottluff Scholarship for his work up to 2018. His works have already been shown in solo exhibitions at Kunsthalle Nürnberg, Kunstverein Ludwigsburg, and Galerie Mark Müller in Zurich. A selection of his works is currently being shown at Kunsthalle Düsseldorf.

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Common Things. Things in Common.

(an excerpt)

Dr. Invar-Torre Hollaus, Basel (CH)


Despite all the familiarity and objectivity suggested by some of the representational, recognizable motifs and objects, at least at a fleeting glance the viewer finds himself face-to-face with irritating pictorial worlds, in which nothing seems to fit but ultimately everything is consistent. Making an intense study of these images, the viewer finds himself – to adopt sporting jargon (forgive the metaphorically rather casual comparison!) – in a boxing ring, where he is positively assaulted visually, intellectually and emotionally by the images. Fabian Treiber’s painting challenges the viewer. He never provides visual fields of well-being, which are merely aesthetically attractive and suitably arranged.

In terms of motif and painting method, the images remain in a floating state, for the apparently figurative and the abstract, the descriptive and the contingent, the complete and the incomplete seem to be held in a permanent fragile balance. Fabian Treiber does not play off the concepts of abstraction and figuration against each other here. Instead, in debate with his painting, the inadequacy of such concepts is revealed, as well as whatever is seen as “real” or “normal” in accordance with conventional perceptions. Fabian Treiber is always concerned, therefore, with a painterly questioning of the two poles that shape our perceptions of the world, figuration/representation and abstraction/ the non-representational, which inevitably arise from the uncertainty – and thus the abstraction – of the visual data that we are constantly called upon to process. Do we see what we see, or do we see what we know? There are different ways of seeing the world: there is the humane standpoint – characterized by the rational-intellectual and the sensory-empathic –, and in constrast a perhaps irrational but concrete nature, as well as a media-based, abstract-reduced perception. Reality, or rather a better understanding of the contexts of our world, is probably only conceivable and comprehensible when we are aware of all these levels. Fabian Treiber’s images combine all these types of perception. In this case, art – insofar as it refers critically and with differentiation to its environment and also originates in this same world, not simply aiming to promote an aesthetic sense of well-being – provides an elementary aid for the individual wishing to establish his own position.

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A painted Flowerpot can shake your bed at night

Interview between Marcus Weber and Fabian Treiber (an excerpt)


Marcus Weber

Your current interiors and still-lifes create a strangely dematerialized, unclarified, almost ghostlike impression on me. You work a lot using an airbrush pistol, which results in graphic and painterly effects reminiscent of digital interfaces, like those produced when people draw with apps like Brushes on an iPad. David Hockney or Amy Sillman like to use an iPad to “draw”, but in their painting they are committed to a more traditional, haptic method using brush and oil paints. Is the painterly debate with digitally created images, in the sense of transfer via an interface, also a matter of interest for you?

Fabian Treiber

No, not really. I think I feel in a very similar way – I am very committed to what you call haptic painting. Whereby, I would probably talk of being “attracted” rather than “committed” to it. It’s true that I don’t sense any binding law as far as aids to work are concerned – but there are no digital “pre-images” of that kind in my work. Quite simply, there is such incredible charm for me in direct contact with the canvas, working manually or haptically, on and with the images, the tools and materials, that an easy matter like interface transfer of something created digitally could not motivate me to paint. That wouldn’t interest me at all. What interests me far more is the transfer of traces, emotions and memories, i.e., of something that lies deeper than the surface.

When I start to consider, I have actually always been convinced that the airbrush pistol, the fine mist of colour, this strange irritation that sometimes comes along with it, is more likely to contribute to a visualization of materiality than to dematerialize things, and for that very reason, ultimately it points to the painted or to painting as such.

Marcus Weber

Do the furniture and associated household goods also appear gradually during the painting process, or do you research it in advance, in lifestyle-magazines or in the IKEA catalogue? Your interiors apparently aim to evade temporal categorization. On the one hand, they radiate a tinge of the Swinging Sixties, on the other hand a grey veil seems almost to lie over them like a 1940s post-war atmosphere à la Georges Braque or Bruno Goller. What interests you in particular about the interior today?

Fabian Treiber

In principle, the furniture and the household items generate themselves during the painting process. No research like what you have described takes place, actually, or at least not explicitly. In fact, I did try it once but I discovered relatively quickly that it didn’t benefit me at all, or was simply not directly expressed in my painting. I suppose that is because there are these references, certainly, and they are also allowed to emerge – but I don’t follow them intuitively while I’m painting. This or that “object” could come from one of those magazines or from a specific period, and of course that includes works of art for me. But I am not concerned, by a long way, with thematizing or reproducing explicit objects. Instead, often painted “memories” are what become prototypes on the canvas.

It may sound absurd, but the interior or the painting of interiors is not my declared intention at all; rather, it is to devote myself to the painted object. Or to be more precise, the question of when a painted form actually becomes an object, or can be “read” as such and so turns into a projection surface. When, right at the beginning, I began to place very archaic forms on the canvas, it had an enormous influence on the context within the image and my decisions during the painting process. One simple flat surface suddenly became a table because a “vase-like” object was placed on it. I think that is my relationship to the interior, it simply grew out towards me.

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Staring into Space

Marie Luise Zielonka, Stuttgart (DE)


Die Möglichkeiten den Blick zu schärfen und aufmerksam zu sehen potenzieren sich gerade im Zusammenspiel abstrakter und gegenständlicher Bildelemente. Sie machen die Eigenart der Bildwelten Fabian Treibers aus. Narrative Fragmente scheinen nicht nur im singulären Bild auf, auch zwischen den Arbeiten gibt es Bezüge, die durch den künstlerischen Prozess motiviert sind.

In seinen Arbeiten kippt und pulsiert es. Unter einem altrosafarbenen Teppich scheinen Formen hindurch. Übermalte Erinnerungen, bildgewordene Gedanken vielleicht, die unter der Oberfläche liegen und die dennoch darauf hinweisen, dass dies eben kein Teppich an sich ist, sondern ein gemalter. Wichtig bleibt der gekonnte Einsatz des Materials, aus dem die Form, aus der ein Stil erwächst.

Fabian Treiber erforscht in seinen Bildern den Raum, in den wir blicken und lädt dabei auf ganz eigene Weise zu immer neuen Entdeckungen im Dazwischen ein, zwischen Abstraktion und Figuration, zwischen Eindeutigkeit und Rätselhaftigkeit – oder wie er es formuliert: „There was always something disturbing“.[1]


The interplay of abstract and figurative elements in the image increase the options to sharpen the gaze and to see more attentively. This is what characterizes the visual world of Fabian Treiber. Narrative fragments not only emerge in single paintings, but also a whole series bears relations, which are motivated by the artistic process.

His works are vibrating and pulsating. Something seems to be shining through underneath a light rose coloured carpet. Memories painted over, thoughts that have turned into an image perhaps, lurking under the surface they implie that this is not a carpet in its own right, but a painted one. The masterly use of the material is ever so important, paving the way for arising forms and finally a unique style.

Fabian Treiber explores the space in which we are staring and invites us to make new discoveries of our own, between abstraction and figuration, between unambiguousness and mysteriousness – or as he puts it: »There was always something disturbing.«

[1] Die gleichnamige Ausstellung fand von März bis Mai 2016 in der Galerie Strzelski, Stuttgart statt.

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About the works

Reto Boller, Zurich (CH)


One precondition for Fabian Treiber’s work is Baumeister’s search for the “Unknown“ in which the intended aim solely serves as a method for finding forms within an autonomous pictorial world. Just as inevitable, however, are representational realities. In between these two realms his painterly research takes place.

Employing stencils and lacquer spray Treiber makes the format rhythmic. He layers recurring elements until the resulting accumulations delay a direct recognizing of formal doubling. Maybe the time gap is necessary for the viewer in order to realize the representational references that occur in all his works. Space emerges on the picture plane and is dissolved, at times negated, in the next moment of seeing. With elements taken from the real world of objects the artist eludes a self-referential private language.

In other works Treiber contrasts even more vehemently a planned composition and an uncontrolled and accidental proceeding. Avoiding processes of transformation he is rather looking for hints that can trigger a change of course directly while painting. He removes biographical anecdotes or pure subjectivity, which occasionally initiates the working process, so far from their original context that they are not relevant to the subject-matter anymore.

Moving between abstraction and representation Treiber invents pictorial worlds which he does not tell of, but which can be experienced as autonomous painting itself. The formed colors are no illustration of this open attitude; they rather speak about a genuine search for uncharted territory. With this approach, coined by intuition and experience, Treiber manages to find rather than create images. The fact that he takes risks and does not shy away from making assertions is an asset to his painting.

No Name gets to the heart of it

(an excerpt)

Dr. Harriet Zilch, Nuremberg (DE)


At what point does a square form become a table, a rectangle turn into a living room carpet, an oval into a barrel or a triangle into a vase? When do two pink ellipses make us think of a fluffy pair of slippers, and when is a green rectangle associated with a ping-pong table? Where is the demarcation line after which an abstract geometric form becomes a familiar object?

What do Fabian Treiber’s pictorial worlds show, and how is their reality constructed? In this central question, we are not assisted by either associations to traditional art history or psychologizing attempts at interpretation. Rather, the viewer faces the irritating experience of being able to recognize and name a large number of the painted objects, although what is seen remains vague and inexplicable. The impression of great proximity and familiarity is combined with a fundamental incomprehensibility and impenetrability. As if in a dream or a nebulous memory, there are no reliable parameters to explain the world.

Visual paradoxes and absurdities emerge, and, precisely because of this contradiction, awaken the observer’s doubt as well as his curiosity. He realizes that the probable is not necessarily true just because it is not false. Ultimately, in his search for the ability to name things, all he can ascertain is that “No name gets to the heart of it.”

Fabian Treiber consistently resists the urge to concretize and complete during the work process. His pictorial worlds remain oddly vague, for he succeeds in a kind of hybrid painting, which is capable of being simultaneously abstract and figurative. It is true that initially this seems like a paradox, but abstraction removed from any form of objective denomination lacks all interest for him, just like a purely illustrative reproduction of reality. His works result from a constant questioning of reality and its objective representatives; they document a form of abstraction on the basis of concrete objects.

Fabian Treiber paints neither contemporary interiors nor still-lifes, neither window pictures nor landscapes. Far more, his works deal ingeniously with the elementary questions of painting concerning form and structure, colour and composition, spatiality and the distribution of flat surfaces. Reflection on the medium of painting is always inherent in his images, but the discourse is not exhausted in simple self-reflection; it is also open to everyday life. And so the recipient is not confronted with a hermetically self-contained cosmos; he discovers apparently familiar representatives of the material world.

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