“Newman and Rothko attempted to rehabilitate in their works a unity and order that for them had been lost […] For me, abstract art today is what one sees and nothing more.”
—G. FÖRG, quoted in Günther Förg: Painting/ Sculpture/ Installation, exh. cat., 1989, Newport Beach, p. 6
With its topographic expanse of shifting monotone forms, Günther Förg’s Untitled from 2000 is a refined example of the artist’s enduring dialogue with modern abstraction. Spanning over eight feet in width, the painting’s vast scale and austere smoky grey hue combine to create a work of monumental presence. Förg inscribes the painting with implied geometric forms rendered through his directionally linear handling of paint. Glimpses of Förg’s raw canvas emerge from the shroud of grey pigment, underscoring the interplay of space and form. Although his formal study of colour references modern masters including Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt and Mark Rothko, Förg consciously distances himself from the spiritualism of American Abstract Expressionism, explaining ‘Newman and Rothko attempted to rehabilitate in their works a unity and order that for them had been lost […] For me, abstract art today is what one sees and nothing more’ (G. Förg, quoted in Günther Förg: Painting/ Sculpture/ Installation, exh. cat., 1989, Newport Beach, p. 6). His courageous renunciation of painting’s long-standing metaphysical pretention heralds an anti-dogmatic postmodernist art that, unburdened by proselytization, draws attention to objective pictorial power. By reducing his artistic syntax to the formal tenets of abstraction – ‘the same problems that faced those at the beginning of the century or even before, problems around colour, form and composition’ – Förg’s Untitled champions the creative process of art-making and the physicality of art (G. Förg, interview with D. Ryan, ‘Talking Painting’, Karlsruhe 1997, reproduced at http:/www.david-ryan.co.uk/Günther0Förg.html [accessed 25 August 2016]). With its monochromatic depth, convoluted form and painterly impasto, the work affirms and revitalises the empirical qualities of abstraction.