‘Stingel may be categorized in the group of artists who passionately pursue painterly effects that for the most part appear almost autonomously on the picture’s surface. The texture of the material’s surface is proof of its manufacture’ (R. Zittl, ‘The Trickster,’ in Rudolf Stingel, exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 2007, p. 32).
Untitled (2006) is a sumptuous example of Rudolf Stingel’s painterly practice, developing from the series of monochrome paintings he produced in the late 1980s. Untitled displays a rich scintillating black surface and a meticulously patterned baroque fabric, which Stingel created by intentionally applying swathes of gauze on the canvas before adding other layers of paint with a spray gun. Subsequently the artist removed the bands of gauze to disclose the finished work. The result is an iridescent stratification of black hues: the first layers of varnish glow through the shimmering Baroque-motifs, creating an almost classical impression of luminosity. Strategically employing the gauze as a stencil, Untitled blurs the boundaries between painting and printing, since the filter overcomes the artist’s hand. In this regard, Untitled is a remarkable work that intertwines multiple artistic references, particularly Gerhard Richter’s squeegee paintings, in which the mediating tool - in Stingel’s case, the gauze – is employed to direct the movement of paint across the canvas. Just as Richter’s over-painted photographs explore the relationship between abstraction and figuration, Stingel’s work pursues a similar project. As Francesco Bonami has explained, ‘Stingel creates a transitive way to recede from abstraction into the subject and to push the subject into a different kind of time. While Richter’s blur is an anticipation of a forthcoming, more radical disappearance of the subject, Stingel’s impressions left by the pattern of the fabric … are the same as the impression left by the subject on the canvas’ (F. Bonami, ‘Introduction’, Rudolf Stingel, Chicago 2007, p. 14).
Untitled may also be considered in relation to another significant element of Stingel’s oeuvre: his fascination with the decorative. This propensity is visible in the Baroque-style ornamental patterns, reminiscent of Baroque architecture. Growing up in the Italian Tyrol and Vienna, Stingel was highly influenced by Baroque aesthetics and even attended a school specialised in wood carved Baroque ornaments. Although Untitled avoids direct references to this aesthetic, its combination of intimate scale and details creates an archaic ornamental appearance that belies its contemporary execution. Hovering before the viewer as if extracted from a Baroque fresco, the work is transformed from a two-dimensional canvas to a piece of architecture.