A monumental vision spanning four metres in width, the present work is a vibrant large-scale painting by Günther Förg. With its scrubbed patches of colour spattered against a white background, it belongs to the series of so-called ‘spot paintings’ that the artist created between 2007 and 2009. Standing among his final works, they represent the grand culmination of a practice that, since the 1980s, had rigorously interrogated the interaction between colour, material and form. Offering a scintillating counterpart to Förg’s celebrated works on lead, his canvas paintings continued his exploration of painting’s alchemy, scrutinising the relationship between pigment and fibre through different abstract formations. By the time of the ‘spot paintings’, his works had moved away from the density of his ‘window’ and ‘grid’ works, embracing light, space and vast scale. ‘One cannot even begin to appraise the effect of floating, dancing colours’, enthuses Rudi Fuchs. ‘Their sparkling behaviour, elusive as light on splashing water, is a main source for the elusive energy in these paintings’ (R. Fuchs, Günther Förg: Back and Forth, Cologne 2008, pp. 9-10). In the present work, the artist rejoices in the primal, electric charge of his chosen hues: red, pink, green, purple, blue, orange, ochre and black are swept into a loud symphonic chorus, vibrating with near-sonorous intensity.
Förg came to prominence in a world desperately seeking new directions for painting. Among his contemporaries were artists such as Martin Kippenberger, Albert Oehlen and Werner Büttner – the so-called ‘Hetzler boys’ – who congregated around Max Hetzler’s gallery in Cologne during the 1980s. Whilst many of these artists championed a wild, subversive dismantling of painting’s traditions, cultivating a genre known colloquially as ‘bad painting’, Förg pursued a more rigorous, thoughtful agenda. Abandoning painting for much of the 1980s in favour of photography, he eventually returned to the medium, harnessing a variety of different supports including wood, copper and bronze as well as lead and canvas. Grounding his approach in art history, his early influences included Georg Baselitz, Robert Ryman and Blinky Palermo: all artists who had systematically disrupted the medium’s conventions. Visually, however, his works invited greater comparison with Colour Field painters such as Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko, who engaged with notions of transcendence and the sublime. Unlike his predecessors, however, Förg was less interested in the metaphysical power of the medium than in its raw physical properties: ‘Really, painting should be sexy’, he explained. ‘It should be sensual. These are things that will always escape the concept’ (G. Förg, quoted in D. Ryan, ‘Talking Painting: Interview with Günther Förg Karlsruhe 1997’, http://www.david-ryan.co.uk/Gunther%20Forg.html [accessed 6 September 2019]). With its pure, unfettered celebration of paint’s chromatic brilliance, the present work brings this conviction to a thrilling crescendo.