After a troubled childhood and a turbulent adolescence, August Walla was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was finally admitted - along with his mother - to the Gugging hospital, near Vienna, in 1970. Resident of the Haus der Künstler (house of artists), he will remain there for the rest of his life. Expressing himself through photography, installation, diversion of objects and typing of manifestos, writing and drawing have become inseparable in his work. A key figure in art brut, collected by David Bowie, Walla is present in a number of collections around the world, including those of the MoMa (New York) or the Milwaukee Art Museum (Wisconsin).
Born in Klosterneuberg in Lower Austria, August Walla remained an only son and had a very tight bond with his mother, who raised him as if her were a girl, hoping thus to spare him being enlisted in the army. He imagined for a long time that Hitler was his father, not having known his own, who died during his early childhood. Incapable of adapting to school, he was placed in a specialized institution. At the age of nine, after having lived through the traumatizing experience of losing sleep for three months, he wrote in his school notebooks: “Everything that is red is diabolical.”
The punching bag of his classmates, he remained helpless, regretting he was not a girl. At age 16, after having threatened to commit suicide and to burn down his house, he was committed for four years to a psychiatric hospital where he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Upon his departure, his mother dedicated herself entirely to him. But in 1970, August was again admitted to the psychiatric ward, in the Gugging hospital, near Vienna. Sixteen years later, he became one of the members of the House of Artists (Haus der Künstler), created a few years earlier by Doctor Navratil outside the hospital, and where he would remain until the end of his life.
Like Wölfli, Walla filled pages with writing and when the sheet of paper turned out to be too narrow, he covered the walls of his room with drawings and inscriptions. Sometimes, he even painted on trees or on roads, only to then photograph his messages with a camera he had painted green because he hated black. Walla constantly invented imaginary languages inspired by his readings of foreign language dictionaries. Writing and drawing are inseparable in his work, covered in obsessive symbols and which develops as a continuum, of which each part seems inseparable from the ensemble.
For almost 25 years, August Walla has been considered a “classic” of art brut and, as such, appears in the most important public and private collections.
Preface : Johann Feilacher
Foreword : Christian Berst
Catalog published to mark the exhibition August Walla : ecce walla, from april 18th to may 23rd, 2015.