Gotthard Graubner

Galerie Karsten Greve

Since the ’60s, Gotthard Graubner has called his paintings Farbraumkörper—colored spatial bodies—and no term could better describe his work. Like many artists of his generation, he began his career by reacting against the spontaneity of art informel. But Graubner numbers among the few who have remained faithful to their original stylistic choices with coherence and rigor while retaining the power to surprise.

Though these paintings attempt to transform space into something palpable, solid, they also seem to consist purely of light. Graubner constructs his works—which are sometimes very large—by covering stretched canvases with a layer of synthetic cotton-wool, which lends each painting the soft thickness of a cushion. Over the “cotton-wool” he then stretches another piece of canvas, painting on this second surface with a mixture of acrylic and oil. His work is thus the end result of a rather complicated process that reduces painting to two basic elements—support and paint. Far from being a neutral element, in Graubner’s work the support gives a physicality to the work that places it somewhere between painting and sculpture. The “colored bodies” that he creates project far enough from the wall to cast shadows, thereby blurring the boundary between each painting and the space around it.

As Graubner works his surfaces, the paint retains the agitated traces of his brush, and the superimposed layers of color also remain visible. While these monochromes may at times seem to approach absolute abstraction, certain aspects suggest the impossibility of achieving such a state. Although they have been created through a succession of deliberate gestures, the paintings are rich in accident. One can, for example, find drips along their thick edges—resulting from the way the artist paints while holding each “cushion” in a vertical position on the floor—irregularities that foreground the process of painting itself.

Each painting’s “function” is to extend the expressive force of color into space. The most startling effect of Graubner’s paintings is their luminosity, which exists almost in spite of their insistent corporeality: vibrant bursts of yellow or red interrupted by delicate watery greens, tenuous blues, and darker blotches alternate with blue, black, or violet fields that are as dusky as the skies in certain Tintorettos.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.