Förg was employed as a house painter when he began to make art in 1973. For his first work, Ohne Titel, the artist rubbed anthracite paint onto a black ground with a sponge; the painting could be read as a refutation of the domineering impact of the New York School on abstract art. In contrast to the monumental canvases favoured by American Abstract Expressionists, Förg preferred to paint on panels of wood and lead, thereby emphasising the materiality of the artwork’s medium. Drawing inspiration from Frank Stella and Blinky Palermo, Förg posited painting as one form of expression among many, rather than the window into spirituality promised by Mark Rothko's and Barnett Newman’s colour fields. In his envisioning of painting’s continued development after Abstract Expressionism, Förg has much in common with Gerhard Richter, who sought to eliminate the artist’s hand through his use of the squeegee. The present work, painted early in the artist's career, shares a muted palette and introspective atmosphere with Richter’s Grey Paintings from the same period.
Despite Förg’s desire to avoid artistic handwriting in his paintings, his oeuvre is undeniably an autobiography of his experiences in urban Germany. As writer Cees Nooteboom explains: “Artists are flâneurs, even if they do not write. They are responsible for the preservation of memory, they are the observers of disappearance, they are the first to herald disaster, they do not miss even the smallest detail, they belong to the city and the city could not be imagined without them. They are the city’s eyes, recorders, chroniclers, judges and archives. It is in the flâneur that the city can seek and find its self awareness” (Cees Nooteboom cited in: Exh. Cat., Hanover, Kunstverein Hannover, Günther Förg, 1995, p. 123). Förg’s painting series bear resemblance to the wall panels of architecture and structures inhabiting the city: some under construction and yet to be painted, others weathered and awaiting demolition. The panels of Veronese Green, possessing the hues of oxidised copper, look as if they were made from metal. They remind viewers of the rusted walls of derelict houses and factories populating European cities after World War II.
Hailing from the early period of the artist’s career, Veronese Green evinces the emphatic nature of Förg’s artistry and stylistic ingenuity. The present painting, in its minimal abstraction and rich materiality, embodies Förg’s efforts at revitalising expressive painting and testifies to the artist’s links to German Neo-Expressionists like Gerhard Richter and Imi Knoebel. Executed in a series of panels, the work attests to Förg’s unique application of Modernist-inspired formalism to the in-depth investigation of urban architecture.
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