Arnulf Rainer - Overpaintings / Face Farces and Body Poses / Finger Painting

Arnufl Rainner - Overpaintings / Face Farces and Body Poses / Finger Painting

Calmness and balance are the criteria of the initial overpaintings. The aim is to examine the relationship between color and picture format and the tension between the edge of the picture, the painting support and the boundaries of the compact covering. It is a matter of concentration rather than gesticulation, of something tamed by painting and rooted in painting. Thus Rainer reaches a limit in his search for the origins of painting.
"Covering up the weak parts of a picture, one after the other, until I could no longer see anything led me to do overpaintings. Out of love and an urge for perfection. I wanted to make even more beautiful artworks out of them; everything else is a rumor." - Arnulf Rainer, Selbstbemerkungen ("Personal Notes"), 1971
"I wanted broad darkness, an almost completely black picture. Extinction of expression, permanent covering and contemplative silence are the principles of the works I created from 1953 to 1965." - Arnulf Rainer, Das ganz dunkle Bild ("The Completely Dark Picture"), 1978
In 1961, Rainer started overdrawing figures. What lies beneath determines the form of covering he chooses. He is no longer interested in overpainting completely but rather in creating an intense relationship to the covered original. The edges are frayed and in motion. Inspired by what lies beneath, he proceeds from there. His revisions and his corrections of the contours lend the overpaintings a creative rhythm that is in harmony with the covered subject, but might just as well break away and run riot.
Rainer said in an interview in 1975 that it was his own self that was slumbering beneath the overpaintings, which, however, are not abstractions but rather his own psychological and physical shrouding. His work can be divided into two groups, marked by externalization or internalization. Turning things inside out and exposing them, however, is always linked to the gestural and is thus amplified. Although the shrouding function of the overpainting physically erases the object beneath, the spiritual presence remains tangible due to the surface structure.

Films made while he worked inspired Arnulf Rainer to create an independent group of artworks that captured the nervous tension and transformation of his face when he was drawing intently.
"When I'm drawing, I feel excited. I talk to myself, pull faces, and swear at people. I am constantly moving and transforming my body, character and person. It was these side effects of artistry that I wanted to lend a life of their own." - Arnulf Rainer, Face Farces, 1971
He made his first self-portraits in postcard size in 1968, pulling faces in an automatic photo booth at Vienna's Westbahnhof railway station. His expressions in these photographs, however, did not correspond to the tension and emotion that he aimed to convey. Thus Rainer drew over these photographs in order to lend them greater emphasis. Initially he showed some restraint, setting only certain accents that were important to him. The more intensely he worked on his photographs and the more absorbed he became in talking to himself - entering into dialogues with himself - the more his image was transformed. Rainer enhanced himself. He assumed facial expressions and theatrical poses for the photographs. In a second step, he used graphic and painterly means to intensify the expression in these images. Painting as self-reproduction and imaginary self-creation.
The work phases were relatively short. Once Rainer had stimulated his mirror image all the way to extroverted self-communication, the pictures were taken, mostly by a trusted photographer. The next step was to make a selection from the hundreds of moments captured in quick succession in these photographs. Weeks later, after a cooling-off period, a second selection took place and Rainer, annoyed by the inability of photography to capture his ecstatic moments, made his first corrections.
The principle of superimposition through double imagery was expanded by Rainer's overlapping of media and of two forms of expression. He merged the performing arts with the visual arts, and photography with painting. The language of the face - its self-expression - was suddenly understood as art, and thus the boundaries between art and life were broken down.

The first finger paintings were created in 1973. While working intensively on a large Face Farce, Arnulf Rainer broke his brush. In order to keep his rhythm and concentration, he continued painting with his fingers. He was fascinated by this immediate and quick access and the resulting direct translation of his emotions. His first works of the 1970s are reduced and aggressive. Often, he simply applied one or two images onto the painting support with his hand, mostly using red paint in case his hand started bleeding. Later, the works became far more complex and chaotic. Rainer spent many years completing these pictures, repeatedly overpainting them with new colors and gestures after long interruptions. He worked very quickly and impulsively, slapping, wiping and hitting the painting support obsessively with his hands. The pictures created in this way are infinitely varied. The works of the 1980s are characterized less by aggressive blows than by the traces his fingers left in the
still-wet paint. A great variety of colors and forms merged into complex structures. Rainer constantly developed this technique further, creating an extremely subtle and refined pictorial language. As in the case of his overpaintings, the pictures subsequently became more ambiguous, mysterious and enigmatic, and the movements slower. Aggression gave way to articulation. Rainer began to formulate his pictures with his fingers. He started to focus specifically on using the pictorial language he had meticulously developed, merging it with traditional techniques to enhance the impulsivity and corporality of his works.
The artist himself became a painting tool. No modus operandi could be more direct. Thus the finger paintings were a logical further development of his body language.
"After I had spread out many sheets of cardboard on the floor, I crawled from one to the other in order to apply the paint in the form of smears, marks and traces. In this way, I developed a very physical painting style … my hands were always dirty, abraded and sore; it hurt my knees." - Arnulf Rainer, Gejammer ("Yammering"), 1982

From Oskar Kokoschka to Arnulf Rainer.
Alongside Alfred Kubin, Joseph Beuys, Dieter Roth and Günter Brus to Michael Horsky.
From Modernism to the Contemporary.

Galerie Ruberl
Christa Armann
m: +43 664 4554 360
T +43 1 513 19 92

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