A major, large-scale suite of the artist's celebrated lead paintings, Untitled by Günther Förg is an eight part wall installation spanning over five metres in width. From ivory white, cerulean blue to the deep hues of grey and violet, Untitled operate together to encapsulate the artist's long-standing exploration of colour, abstraction and object-hood and form. Executed with a freedom of movement, the paint seems almost casually applied over the lead; each direction of the artist's hand made visible through the tactility of the soft metal. Like a folded or crinkled sheet of paper, each panel possesses its own unique trail or imprint, with sumptuous, yet flat, curves and ripples reverberating on the surface of the lead. Arranged in two linear rows, the vibrancy of the upper panels is contrasted with the dark, shadowy hues of the lower panel. Above, alongside white, a colour which reflects all others, the primary colours of blue, yellow and red appear triumphant; below, alongside black, a colour which encompasses all other colours, deep tones of violet, grey and navy act as an anchor, conveying a solidity and concreteness to the work. Executed in 1987, acquired the same year and held in the same collection since, Untitled is a prime and rare example of Förg's experimentation with monumental and sequential groups of lead paintings, created with the aim to be perceived as a single unit.
At the root of Untitled lies a recurrent concept within Förg's oeuvre, that is the study of colour and the material it interacts with. The artist has explained: 'it's a question of the choice of the materials. I often used the particular choice of material to get this feeling of depth the lead gives the painting a very heavy feeling, it gives the colour a different density and weight' (G. Förg, interview with D. Ryan, Talking Painting, Karlsruhe 1997, reproduced at http://www.david-ryan.co.uk/gunther0forg.html). In Untitled, each fluid, thinly applied brushstroke seeps into the dense and malleable metal. Echoing the furrows and lines of the lead, the chromatic planes imbue the solid matter, becoming solid and substantial themselves.
The two fundamental aspects of Untitled, its colour fields and sculptural appearance, seem at first to continue the vernacular of the American abstract painters of the 1950s and minimalists of the 1960s; this work in fact departs from this art historical link in a very subtle manner. Aesthetically, the monochromatic planes of Untitled resonate with those of Mark Rothko or Barnett Newman and the use of an industrial metal seems to point to the rise of the 'object' in Minimalism, as in Judd's 1965 thesis 'Specific Objects'. Yet, while artists such as Newman sought the universal, spiritual and mystical in their paintings, Förg is concerned with the tangible, physical and the material. In this sense, Förg is closer conceptually to Ad Reinhardt, who hoped to 'purge painting of all its non-art content'; essentially, to create an artwork that 'is just this and nothing else' (P. Schimmel, quoted in Günther Förg, exh. cat., Newport, Newport Harbor Art Museum, 1989, p. 13).
However, more apparent than the influence of the American abstract painters in Untitled, is the specific influence of German artist Blinky Palermo. Palermo's reductivist aesthetic paired with his establishment of a 'conceptual dialogue among sculptural, environmental and painted elements in an exhibition' can be applied to Förg's artistic evolution ten years later (Ibid.). Förg began to think of his paintings as objects in a series or sequence and in 1978, his artistic practice evolved to include photographic elements and eventually in 1983, bronze sculptural work was introduced. The late eighties were a particularly fruitful time for the artist: an extensive investigation of various mediums coalesced in a harmonious and organic manner, culminating in artistic breakthroughs in his lead paintings, one being the inclusion of new formal devices such as multi-paneled, suite-format lead paintings. While works by Palermo possess an 'intimate monumentality', Untitled is a work of great ambition, in scale and concept.
Untitled also holds an inextricable relationship with the other aspects of Förg's artistic practice. Concerned with the basic tenants of abstraction--colour and form--the artist eschews traditional mediums for new materials to activate a certain objectivity; an objectivity which is also sought after in his photographs. It is the artist's ability to integrate seemingly disparate forms of art into a singular, unified practice, much in the same way he utilises many panels to create one, consummate work of art in Untitled. The emphasis lies in the process, a process which has allowed Förg to subtract the romantic, emotional sentiment of previous abstract painters, despite the inescapable weight of art history. As the artist as elaborated; 'I think if we take a broader perspective we could say that, 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' (G. Förg, interview with D. Ryan, Talking Painting, Karlsruhe 1997, reproduced at http://www.david-ryan.co.uk/gunther0forg.html). From his diverse material and mediums, the artist offers more than a critique of Modernist practices or allusions to art history in Untitled, Förg offers a meditation on the subjective, perceived in an objective manner.