Günther Förg solo exhibition  Massimo De Carlo Gallery
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Günther Förg solo exhibition at Massimo De Carlo Gallery

text: Alan Chan

On show at Massimo De Carlo Gallery are four late paintings by the German artist Günther Förg, known for his monochromatic abstraction and architectural photography.


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photo:Günther Förg solo exhibition at Massimo De Carlo Gallery

On show at Massimo De Carlo Gallery are four late paintings by the German artist Günther Förg, known for his monochromatic abstraction and architectural photography. Born in the 50s of Germany, Förg was among the first generation of post-war German artists that include Martin Kippenberger, Albert Oehlen and Blinky Palermo, whose work interrogated the legacies of European cultures and respond to the influence of art from the America back in the 70s.

The works in the exhibition are made from 2007 on, before Förg’s untimely death in 2013 at the age of 61. The paintings on show differ stylistically from the early monochromatic and geometric abstract works of the artist which are responses to, and sometimes parodies of, the legacy of modernist paintings. These are big paintings that stand close to three metres, demanding the centre of the wall as much as they demand the interest of their viewers. On their white backgrounds are scribbles and brushstrokes of bright colours that form patches of paint here and there. Painterly certainly they are, and they are as such to the extent of being expressively so, as if they are making a point about painterly gesture itself.

However arbitrary they look, these are calculated gestures, it is even suffice to say that they are contrivance, and indeed calculated contrivance. These are paintings in quotation marks, and displaying together they make a tongue in cheek statement about the status of painting by emptying out and make ridiculous any attempts in narrating and romanticising them. Despite their sizes, they are not made for sublime contemplation, nor are they made as the carriers of narrative meanings like the work of Cy Twombly whose Bacchus paintings at Tate Modern exemplify the Dionysian spirit of festivity with swirls of splashing red paint as if the god of wine has spilt his spirit on the canvas just before the viewers enter into the gallery. Förg’s gestures and marks do not lend themselves to such imagination, and the calculated silliness of these paintings is the irony he was playing with.

As painterly as these gestures appear to be, they are faithful to their own face values. It is part of Förg agenda to lay bare the ruins of painting – the distrust about it, the readymade reverence given to it by the mass, the sacred surface that seems to legitimise whatever being put on it. But Förg’s paintings seem to do so by making and being in this ruin, like what his contemporary Michael Krebber has done, Förg only differed by a nihilism that is sugar-coated and thus milder and less stark as the latter. One can take them as a joke on gallery-goers who are often too ready to vindicate whatever passes before them. But less as a joke that offers critical reflection, it is yet another regurgitation about the ruins of painting. It is like hiccups that either repeats a momentary spasm indefinitely or will eventually die out, because after all, who is afraid of hiccups?


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Günther Förg solo exhibition

Massimo De Carlo Gallery

27/03/201603/09/2016