August Walla
c. 1971

Colored pencil

Dom Museum Wien

OM/AS 24-31

Modern and Contemporary art

On view

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Photo: Leni Deinhardstein, Lisa Rastl, Dom Museum Wien
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the artist as an omnipotent figure

One of the leading figures of Art brut, August Walla is known for his powerful inventions of new words and characters, which he renders in brilliant colors.

With a mean grin, this black creature looks out of the horizontal-format colored-pencil drawing. Purple letters in the right top corner identify the strange being: it is neither human nor animal, but the “Devilgod Walla.”

August Walla is known for colorful drawings in which he combines image and writing, toying with language and inventing new words. His works are informed by an idiosyncratic imagery. Subjects he often used include a figure in bathing trunks, his self-created “hell sign,” or the hammer and sickle. Time and again, he portrayed himself as a “devilgod.”

Like Oswald Tschirtner or Johann Hauser, Walla was a “Gugging artist,” who spent his life in the state mental hospital in Gugging, Lower Austria. In the 1960s, Leo Navratil, a psychiatrist working in the institution, discovered the talents of his patients and encouraged them to engage in art activities. Today, the works from Gugging are main works of so-called outsider art or art brut. Like children’s drawings they are created outside, and unperturbed by, the influence sphere of art history. Walla is also well-known for his room in the psychiatric ward in Gugging, whose walls he covered with paintings all over, from top to bottom.