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Arnulf Rainer

Currently not on display
Acquired in 1987
Inventory number 1198

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In this work the Austrian artist Arnulf Rainer applied the paint to card with his hands. The traces left behind by his fingers can be seen in the top layer of pinkish red paint. This layer partly conceals the underlying layers of paint. At the top and bottom edges of the painting, the paint has been applied thinly so that it flows; in other places it is actually thick and syrupy. Part of the card has been left unpainted and spatters of paint and smudges can be seen in many places.

Rainer explained how he made his 'Fingermalereien' in 1973: “Once when I was painting over the cheeks of a large photograph, the brush I was using while I was painting in a trance, broke in two. In my haste I tried to do it with my hands and I hit and drummed on the cheek and was fascinated by the splashing, the traces left when my hand hit the surface. I decided to make it in this way.” Because his hands end up bleeding when he rubs and hits the rough canvas, he decided to start working on smooth card. In addition, he opted for red paint so that a single drip of blood would not be noticed in the painting. This resulted in a series of works in which he applied the paint to the card directly with his hands or with his feet, sometimes over several sessions. In the 1980s Rainer again made 'Fingermalereien', but this time over paintings which had used different techniques.

In the 'Fingermalerei' exhibited here, Rainer reveals all sorts of different ways of applying the paint. The paint has been poured from the edge onto the card so that it is flowing and transparent, but it has also been applied as a paste with the fingers or a brush to cover the card, mixing the colours while he was painting. Despite the more controlled elements, the work above all expresses the violent process of painting. In contrast with Rainer’s very direct 'Fingermalereien' made in a sort of trance, there are his 'Übermalungen' in which he paints over existing paintings with extreme precision. The process has central place in both the 'Fingermalereien' and the 'Übermalungen'. The aesthetic aspect of the work is completely unimportant to Rainer and he is more concerned with expressing sincere feelings. The result is an invitation to the viewer to share his experience of the feelings and considerations which determine the working process of the artist.