At this moment in Förg’s career, his artistic practice dove into a deep well of Twentieth Century artistic references, which have echoed throughout his entire oeuvre. The artist’s idiosyncratic use of colour and compositional structure are immediately reminiscent of the expansive canvases of American colour field painters, particularly of Barnett Newman. However, Förg’s Untitled marks a pioneering departure from the metaphysical, spiritual mode of abstraction adopted by the colour field painters, steering instead towards a total rejection of traditional painterly finesse, and a complete embrace of pure concept. In Untitled, Förg challenges the modernist grid with a masterful handling of colour and manipulation of form. Where the highly rigorous formalism of the modernist grid is Goliath, the sensual qualities of the individual brushstroke are David.
Executed in 1988, Untitled lays bare the artist’s unmistakable fascination with the masters of Modernism: the grids of Piet Mondrian are rendered in simplified form across four panels where the artist’s meticulous brushstrokes obsessively erase any evidence of the artist’s ‘handwriting’. In Unitled, Förg championed a transparency of the painterly process. The writer Matthias Buck explains, the artist “loved the contaminations and he liked to show expressive brushwork not as a signifier of immediate emotions but as technical accidents” (Matthias Buck, Günther Förg, Berlin and Paris 2017, p. 22). In this sense, the artist departs from conventional spiritual abstraction, and instead introduces personal artistic intuition into the modernist grid, an unprecedented innovation. In Untitled, Förg’s trials this concept of a ‘gestural grid’, an idea that resonates throughout subsequent decades of his artistic output.
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