Günther Förg

Galleria Christian Stein | Milan

With these exhibitions, Günther Förg showed a transformation in the working of his painted surfaces, which have often allowed the viewer to glimpse the contradiction between the transparency and the opacity of matter. This relationship is what makes his architectural subjects so fascinating. Both the large-format photographs of façades and the vertiginous interiors of stairways and environments exhibit this same link between transparent and opaque structures. It is as if the exterior of the façades kept a magmatic interior at bay, and as though the support or skeleton of the image were presenting an inner light. In these new paintings, the tones of the colors refer to an intensity that is traditionally associated with Mediterranean light. On closer examination, these bright colors don’t refer to a Mediterranean sun, but to a purity of light that, even in the north, can evoke the radiance of the south. We are in the presence of quiet landscapes filled with a sense of classicism.

In Turin, Förg assembled a series of watercolors and charcoal drawings, as well as eight plaster monochrome works—actually, sculptures made in the form of paintings. The frames are integral parts of the paintings; they are “carved” directly from the plaster, and are either white or gray. Forms emerge from these paintings like bas-reliefs, creating a rhythm of vertical or horizontal bands; still others outline a diagonal space. The acrylic colors range from a warm ocher yellow to a light emerald, to a Pompeian red, to lilac, to earth red, to violet, to a deep, nocturnal amaranth.

Large, painted monochrome canvases were shown in Milan. Here Förg’s attention to transparency, which emerges directly from the brushstrokes, is what viewers have come to expect. Unlike other paintings, though, it is not the support, but the various densities of the color that show through. A specific color is not uniquely dominant, but rather certain impastos reveal themselves and indicate continual variations of density. For example, there are various shades of green, from a neutral one that recalls the color of sage, to the more defined shade of emerald. In this entire range, it is opacity that dominates, as if indicating a desire to rest, to protect the eyes from reflection.

The Milan show also presented small watercolors and charcoal drawings. Hung along one wall, they created a continuous line that gave the feeling of an infinite progression. They thus overcame the unfinished look of a visual diary and represented a much more complete work that offered a closed analysis of the sign. This did not occur in the Turin show: these drawings are closely tied to Förg’s analysis of the surface and create a dialogue between drawing and painting, clarifying his elimination of contrast from the painting gesture in order to render the relationship between light and opacity, between transparency and material more fluid.

Francesca Pasini

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.