We are most grateful to Mr. Michael Neff from the Estate of Günther Förg for the information he has kindly provided.
A prime example from the celebrated lead paintings series, Untitled by German artist Günther Förg stretches over a metre and a half in height of pearlescent white brushstroke, interrupted only by a thin, oxblood red band applied just off centre of the panel. Executed in 1986, Untitled was created during a particularly fertile period of the artist’s practice. The late eighties saw the maturation and continued experimentation with the lead medium, resulting in breakthroughs in scale and seriality. The off-kilter line and slightly large scale of Untitled is evidence of this ongoing investigation. The soft and light ivory gestures are contrasted not only by the intersecting band but also by the physicality of the dense metal. As in all of Förg’s lead paintings, Untitled bares a perceptible materiality and form, and through its chromatic scheme and composition reveals the paradoxes of his own painting. The unique texture of the lead, at once heavy and toxic by nature, is also malleable and soft by touch. Viewed in juxtaposition with the smooth application of paint, Förg introduces a wonderful tension between the so-called ‘flatness’ of the picture plane and the brushstroke. His use of colour deepens this tension: the colour white—often associated with neutrality, perfection, even innocence—acts in a physical manner to cover the darker associations of the chemical element.
In Untitled, the inconsistencies and irregularities of the lead provide the stage on which Förg explores and disseminates his study of colour and the material it interacts with. As the artist has explained: ‘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/Günther0Förg.html). Each crinkle, furrow and crease of the lead activates the hues of the paint providing a sense of depth and intensity to the chromatic tones. The lead surface becomes an infinite plane of snow-like white and dark crimson red seeping in, impregnating the molecules of the weighty metal. In many ways, Förg’s paintings have been associated with the long debated Modernist discussion of abstraction and by extension, the discourse of colour. From Piet Mondrian’s concept of pure reality through pictorial grids to Barnett Newman’s ‘zip’ paintings to Mark Rothko’s spiritual connotations, Förg’s use of colour simultaneously operates alongside whilst exploiting the basic tenets of this discourse.