colour as the core concern of painting
the night, the greatest possible absence of light, leads us back to the darkness of the womb (into the vegetative night of the womb, which hardly knows the sense experience of the eye), even deeper, leads us into the non-existence of our 5 senses, into the unborn, and the not-yet-begotten, into nirvana, into nothingness, into non-being. the whole creation, all of its iridescent phenomena are lost in the void.
reversing this perspective sees being arise out of nothingness, bringing forth forces of nature, suns, solar systems, worlds. suns come into being, atoms split, warmth, light radiate. life is validated, our senses evolve and experience the world. our senses of smell, taste, touch, hearing develop. colours affect our brain, purple, blood red, signal red, violet, tulip red, wine red. violets and cyclamens radiate their lilac-magenta. roses exhale red, orange and yellow then the colour white, the colour of light. lilies, lilac and fruit tree blossoms are also white. colours are registered by the perceptual organs of insects. the colours lure insects into the sweetness of their life, bringing about reproduction and growth. colours are the subtlest manifestations of all that exists. colours appear when becoming and life are at work, when it’s all about the continuous resurrection of that exists is. i envision the countenance of the resurrected redeemer on the isenheimer altar, gleaming yellow, bright sun-yellow, a lustrous whitish smile, surrounded by a gloriole of light and colour. this smiling christ reveals himself in front of the night of the cosmos studded with countless suns. gaining awareness of the vital cosmos occurring eternally and infinitely, the countenance of god radiates blinding light, holy light.
colour can be abstracted to a large extent by dissecting light into colour tones. the tone red, yellow, orange, white etc can exist alone as such in our thoughts, without having to be bound to a material substrate. art enables us to play with colours, to festively arrange colours on a surface. colours applied to a surface in the sense of form is called a painting. at first i intended to embark on a different path. at around the end of the 19th century a score of false ideas were left behind. inspired by nietzsche life as such was affirmed. freud taught us that sexuality was natural and that it is important not to repress it. psychoanalysis brought to light that our sensual perception is considerably richer than society, inherited notions of shame, religion and civilisation allowed. the “filthy”, the “impure”, all sensual perception and feeling tied to the erotic, intensive smells, the experiences of the hunter, the butcher, the physician, all of whom dealt with the bodily substances, faeces, internal organs, raw flesh and meat, intestines, secretions and above all blood, were tabooed. all substances, all that is slimy and mucous, readily associable with the sexual bodily functions, all these existing realms of reality which demand a fundamentally deep, intensive, sensual registering were extensively repressed.
i contributed to developing a painting that explored all these repressed realms. art, painting tapped into the experiences of psychoanalysis, the colour tone was not the crux, but the substance of colour became the essential concern, the fluidity, the pastiness. in my action painting colours (substances), fluids were smeared, squirted, poured. an ecstatic dionysian painting developed, the registering and perceptual possibilities hauled out repression through experiencing the excessive was plotted as if on a seismograph, rendered perceptible, raised to awareness through art. abreaction generating conscious realisation was instigated. my action painting is one of extreme gestures, the physical acting out is essential. the process character of this painting has a dramatic theatrical orientation. what happens in time is important, the approach taken to the performances of the o.m. theatre is present. in fact the practical performance of my o.m. theatre developed from the action painting. my action painting is the visual grammar of my performance theatre on a (picture) surface. the action leaves the (picture) surface, enters into space, real events happen are staged. action painting is a basic ritual of the o.m. theatre. for 30 years i employed red because it is the most intensive colour and an extreme exemplification of the fluidity of colour that was to be demonstrated, whereby the analogy to blood was patently obvious.
action painting was and is for me an externalising (abreaction) of murder, slaughtering, hunting, aggression, war (splashing and scattering of blood), it is comes close to the masochistic self-sacrifice on the cross, it is self-abandonment gravitating towards the ecstatic dismemberment of the god dionysus, total externalisation, descent into the mythical realms, into archetypical extreme situations.
i reduced my painting to definite suggestive monochrome uniformity. i gave the colour substance the only possible colour for me, the colour of blood, red. for the “theatrical” performance developing out by my painting blood was used. my theatre is a visual theatre, painting is turned into a staging of events that really happen, colour is turned into blood and flesh. one fundamental leitmotif of my performance theatre is the disembowelment of a skinned sheep crucified upside down. i understand this part of the action as an extension of the act of painting. the actor (painter) rummages around with both hands, right up to the elbows, in the blood-soaked entrails. blood and hot water splash onto the white sheet. the innards which i squeeze and knead are for me pastose colours i apply to the painting. blood splashes like red paint, action painting turns into an ecstatically performed real happening and escalates into a festival of existence in the o.m. theatre. as early as the mid-sixties i employed in my painting actions colours which although extremely luminous were still very material-based and could be poured and splattered. at the same time i wanted to integrate pure (almost insubstantial) colour into the o.m. theatre through projections, namely all the colours of the spectrum were to be projected onto the performance of the action as well as ‘a giant surface’. this was to happen in conjunction with varied sounds, smells and tastes. at the time i wrote a short manifesto.
|anal, sadomasochistic wrestling with flesh (disembowelment and dismemberment actions) amorphous elementary grappling the colour as such is for the moment not abstracted, it solely heightens the sensual elementary grappling
|sublimating dissection of the colour and light values of the flesh abstraction of the colour values into a colour scale for flesh = light rainbow arch of light essence of light ring of colour ring of light matthias grünewald
the sadomasochistic, excessive acting out sublimates itself over the course of the play into a grasping of colour.
my concern was to juxtapose the colouration tied to the matter, e.g. the colour red tied to the matter of flesh and blood, with an abstract, almost immaterial colouration. the substantiality of colour was to be sublimated into a projected spectral colour.
on the other hand i’d long cherished the wish to introduce colour, i.e. all existing hues into my action painting. previously the dark off-red of the early paintings had already been replaced by a bright, luminous red in later works. here too my concern was the colour tone.
in 1989 i fulfilled my long-cherished wish. i employed all existing colours for the ritual of the action painting, including black. the descent into the sacrificial act, into the archetypal excess, into death, was to be transfigured, sublimated. suffering, the extreme state, was to be conveyed chromatically, even more intensively through colour. the agitation red triggers had to be intensified.
the conscious-raising return from the depths is decorated by colour, the sadomasochistic, excessive acting-out sublimated over the course of the performance into a grappling understanding of colour. the return from the realms of the subconscious, from the vegetative state of sleep, death brings forth the lucid awareness of rebirth, resurrection. the colour spectrum appears.
besides celebrating colour as material substance the harmonic now emerges again, which has spontaneously entered the development and above all the work process.
colour is ultimately all about the sharpest awareness alertness, the most intense existence. one seldom dreams in colour. colour is being, movement, light.
colour is the most glorious abundance, exuberance of nature, the innermost, profoundest being and the greatest instant of continuous genesis and renewal, perpetual birth and resurrection. colour is the opposite of the night of nothingness. colour is the glorious, radiant, laughing event of being, all of our senses perceive colour, being through the savouring eye.