Lot 1109
  • 1109

GÜNTHER FÖRG | Untitled

Estimate
2,000,000 - 3,000,000 HKD
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Description

  • Günther Förg
  • Untitled
  • acrylic on canvas
  • 200.5 by 290.5 cm. 78⅞ by 105⅝ in.
signed and dated 08

Provenance

Günther Förg Estate, Switzerland
Massimo de Carlo, Hong Kong
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Exhibited

Hong Kong, Massimo de Carlo, Günther Förg, May - September 2016

Catalogue Note

He found out that the spots became more and more abstract. He learned that they have a three-dimensional level on each spot. There are not just dots on a canvas. They are planned and precisely worked out on an empty field.

Michael Neff


Raw and exuberant, Untitled forms part of Günther Förg’s eclectic spot paintings created from 2007 to 2008; an unapologetic exposition of the artist’s inimitable creative spirit. Executed with bravura and ease of hand, a buoyant network of gestural hatchings waltzes across the vast expanse of the canvas, at once structured yet loose, open yet confined; appearing deceptively simple yet hypnotically sublime. Developed out of his earlier Grid Paintings characterised by dynamic lattices of vertical and horizontal lines, the spot paintings are amongst the late German artist’s final cycles of works, representing the grand culmination of his lifelong practice that demonstrated overt awareness of Modernism, Abstract Expressionism, and other strands of art whilst also appearing fiercely independent and unique. As Albert Oehlen has said, Förg “creates sublime works from something that is already sublime” (Albert Oehlen quoted in: Andreas Schlaegl, ‘Günther Förg: Galerie Max Hetzler’, Frieze, Spring 2012, online resource).

Over a career of more than thirty years, Förg worked across painting, photography, sculpture, and graphic design. Having studied at the Academy of Fine Art in Munich from 1973-76, Förg’s early output was dominated by black monochromes that echoed the Kazimir Malevich’s ground-breaking Black Square of 1915. These early experiments with the black monochrome were to have a significant impact on his subsequent Lead Paintings; instead of using traditional canvas, Förg used hard aluminium and lead panels to which he applied acrylic paint, generating contrast between the harsh surface texture and the smooth monochrome coat of colour. Multiple influences are discerning in Förg’s painterly enterprise over the decades; from the geometry of Piet Mondrian and Robert Ryman to the materiality of Frank Stella and Richard Serra. Förg’s affiliation with colour and composition also closely references the revolutionary work of Abstract Expressionists Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman; contrastingly, Förg divorces himself from the auratic and the sublime. Instead, his swift, fluent paintings are manifestations of pure concept, neither concerned with method nor with the defence of style. This attitude gives the paintings a delightful lightness which, in the context of the history of abstract art, makes them curiously controversial.

“Förg loves the ambiguous, the indecisive, the tightrope walk between roughness and finesse,” writes art historian Florian Steininger on Förg’s Grid Paintings, going on to say that they contend with the dichotomous nature of painting in which material flatness and illusionistic depth converse and collide (Florian Steininger, ‘Günther Förg – “The Painter’s Coat”’ in: Exh. Cat., Vienna, Essl Museum, Günther Förg: Back and Forth, 2007, p. 15). With the later spot paintings, Förg arrives at a new modus operandi and indeed a new level of impalpable and pure abstraction. The white primer on the canvas remains starkly visible beneath the composition, appearing almost illuminated beneath the exuberant paint that overlap it. While the coloured scribbles recall the iconic hatchings of Jasper Johns, Förg’s skilful manipulation of light is reminiscent of many of Klee’s paintings which seem to produce an analogous luminescence. With a seemingly visceral tactility, Untitled conveys a paradoxical materiality that is in the same moment harmonious and in disarray: it conjures a sense of architectural weight and a layering of depth, yet just as convincingly achieves a transcendent weightlessness. Intoxicating in its presentation of space, depth, colour and scale, Untitled poignantly and self-reflexively addresses what it means to create a painting. In Förg’s own words: “fundamentally, as soon as we engage with painting, we have the same problems that faced those at the beginning of the century or even before: problems around colour, form, composition” (the artist cited in David Ryan, Talking Painting, Dialogues with Twelve Contemporary Abstract Painters, New York 2002, p. 80). Dynamic and bold, playful and raw, Untitled enticingly encapsulates the artist’s ambitions as a painter.
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