Franz Kempf is an artist whose work presents both a striking continuity throughout a career which has stretched over half a century, and he is an artist whose work presents evidence for constant rejuvenation and reinvention. As a humanist, the concern for man lies at the centre of his universe and the dilemma of being is the central preoccupation. However, the human presence in Kempf’s art is not something which is treated as unproblematic, something to be recorded and to be described literally. For Kempf to be human is something to be celebrated and the artist adopts an ethical stance in his defence of human dignity. Throughout a series of metaphors, symbols and allegories in a sombre and profound manner he commemorates the miracle of being and condemns all that is oppressive and coercive.
As a humanist and as a spiritual and religious artist, Kempf has chosen a path which has not been popular with many of his Australian peers. Yet with time as the various fads and fashions pass, Kempf’s art today appears increasingly fresh, vital and relevant to the issues of the present time.
Professor Sasha Grishin, AM, FAHA, Art History, Australian National University