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  • Provenance

    Private Collection, Italy

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Each abstraction is a collapsing of an image. There is the disappearance of an image, its death, and finally the image’s sublimation.” FRANCESCO BONAMI

    Rudolf Stingel’s abstract works have often been described as an attempt to close the gap between figuration and abstraction that Gerhard Richter left. “Richter’s abstractions are figurative paintings that have exceeded their time. While the blur that goes across and through them appears to make them abstract, the blur works to overcome the limits of history, swiping across it, across reality and banality, exhausting all of the painting’s narrative time to become a part of memory or dreams. From
    his figurative painting we can see a way toward abstraction, but the other way around appears impossible […] Each abstraction is a collapsing of an image. There is the disappearance of an image, its death, and finally the image’s sublimation” (F. Bonami, ‘Paintings of Paintings for Paintings – The Kairology and Kronology of Rudolf Stingel’, in Rudolf Stingel, exh. cat., London, 2007, pp.13–14).

    According to Bonomi, it is the concept of time that defines abstraction and figuration and it is Stingel who attempts to overcome these temporal limitations in order to grasp the space between the two. This has been described as a balancing act between the specific moment in which everything is contained, which the viewer perceives as the present and which leads to figuration and the eternal time which gives way to abstraction, in which temporal development has been frozen and mortality is superfluous in an endless cycle of nonexistence. Figuration is defined by images and the deferral of mortality as otherwise there would be no existence. It is based on the consumption of time while that same concept poses the biggest threat to abstraction. “His abstractions and portraits look into each other, forward and backward. Stingel creates a transitive way to recede from abstraction into the subject and to push the subject into a different kind of time. While Richter’s blur is an anticipation of a forthcoming, more radical disappearance of the subject, Stingel’s impression left by the pattern of the fabric […] are the same as the impression left by the subject on the canvas” (ibid.).

    The current lot is a beautiful and rare example of an early work on paper laid on canvas from 1984. The vivid, expressive and powerful brushstrokes and beautiful hues of blues and greens remind the viewer of the voluptuous intensity, energy and drama of the Baroque that Stingel was exposed to during his childhood in Austria and the Tyrol, but also reference the limitlessness and boundlessness of the ‘all-over’ paintings of artists such as Jackson Pollock. Stingel’s genius lies in the exploration of the limits of painting, of ownership and hierarchy which are at the very core of his oeuvre and in the dedication of abundant attention to colour and surface, freeing painting from the confining concept of mere representation. And Untitled from 1984 is an important early testimony to that.

  • Artist Biography

    Rudolf Stingel

    Italian • 1956

    Rudolf Stingel came to prominence in the late 1980s for his insistence on the conceptual act of painting in a context in which it had been famously declared dead. Despite the prevailing minimalist and conceptual narrative of the time, the Italian-born artist sought to confront the fundamental aspirations and failures of Modernist painting through the very medium of painting itself. While his works do not always conform to the traditional definitions of painting, their attention to surface, space, color and image provide new and expanded ways of thinking about the process and "idea" of painting. Central to his multifarious and prolific oeuvre is an examination of the passage of time and the probing of the fundamental questions of authenticity, meaning, hierarchy, authorship and context by dislocating painting both internally and in time and space. Stingel is best known for his wall-to-wall installations, constructed of fabric or malleable Celotex sheets, as well as his seemingly more traditional oil-on-canvas paintings.

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36

Untitled

1984
acrylic on paper laid on canvas
206 x 298 cm (81 1/8 x 117 3/8 in)

Estimate
£200,000 - 300,000 ‡ ♠

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

10 October 2012
London