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Born: 1919, Carinthia, Austria
Lives and Works: Vienna, Austria
Maria Lassnig considers all of her paintings to be self-portraits, even those that do not appear to depict her or any human figure for that matter. Each of her subjects derives from a process that the artist terms "body awareness." She has no use for external or anatomical views of her body, least of all photographic representations. "I want to be as independent as possible of machines and complicated tools," she has insisted. "Pencil and brush are primeval tools. Painting is a primeval art." Lassnig bases her work on the frequently distressing internal sensations of inhabiting her own body, both physiologically and psychologically. Her human forms are often defective and supported by crutches, their parts dysmorphic, tortured, or ungainly. For the artist, painting is a means to confront perceptions that are uncomfortable and embarrassing, while her use of color also appears to inflict states of immediate anguish, stress, or exhaustion. Brutal soccer matches, the subject of several of the artist's recent works, depict goalkeepers flailing in front of the net and players forcing each other off the ball or lurching with studded boots. In Lassnig's paintings such lawless contests seem to imply that winning carries an urgent moral imperative and losing has potentially mortal results.