With the dynamic rhythm of its vertical black brushstrokes, K3 T 1980 is a consummate example of Hans Hartung’s elegantly calligraphic abstract style. On a monumentally-sized canvas, resonating with the powerful geometric energy of the square, the artist creates a resonance of colour, so subtle it seems, at first glance, monochromatic. Cloying midnight black spills over the centre of the composition, diffusing at the edges, giving way to an ethereal blue. The effect is that of otherworldly light, rising to illuminate the surface of the canvas, transforming the material into the immaterial: ‘Always, always I looked for a law, the golden rule,’ the artist described, ‘an alchemy of rhythm, movement and colour. Transmutation of an apparent disorder, the only goal of which was to organise a perfect movement, to create order in disorder, to create order through disorder’ (H. Hartung, quoted in G. Bonnefoi, Les Anneés Fertiles 1940-1960, Villefranche-de-Rouergue 1988, p.28).
Upon this ground, the artist’s energetic gestures trace a spontaneous yet harmonious cluster of lines, a poetry of forms eluding figuration. In this late work, the marks are distinguished by their freedom, their quick sweep bursting with internal dynamism, their flecks and spatters reminiscent of the precise strokes of Japanese calligraphy. Like the Surrealists, Hartung was interested in automatic drawing – the process of freely improvised mark-making. The present work witnesses a similar fascination for the spontaneous, as the artist explained, ‘It is an emotional state which drives me to draw, to create certain shapes in order to try to transmit and provoke a similar emotion in the spectator... It is this desire which drives me: the desire to leave a trace of my movement on the canvas or on the paper. It is the act of painting, drawing, scratching, scraping' (H. Hartung, quoted in Hans Hartung - Autoportrait, Paris 1976, p. 180).