With its topographic façade of transverse monotone forms, Günther Förg’s Untitled (1997) is a refined example of the artist’s enduring dialogue with modern abstraction. Stretching over six feet, the painting’s imposing scale and austere smokey grey hue combine to create a work of monumental presence. Förg renders shadowy geometric shapes through his directionally linear handling of thinned pigment. A background of solid blackness emerges from the shroud of grey paint, 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. Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, 1989, p. 6). His renunciation of painting’s long-standing metaphysical leanings heralds an anti-dogmatic postmodernist art that 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 poses a subjective interrogation of the aesthetic sublime, championing the creative process of art-making and the physicality of art (G. Förg, quoted in D. Ryan, ‘Günther Förg in conversation with David Ryan,’ Talking Painting: Dialogue with Twelve Contemporary Abstract Painters, London 2002, p. 77). With its monochromatic depth, convoluted form and painterly intrigue, the work affirms and revitalises the empirical qualities of abstraction.