Arnulf Rainer (Austrian, 1929) ... Strahlung (radiation) 1970

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Lot 28AR
Arnulf Rainer
(Austrian, 1929)
... Strahlung (radiation)
1970

Sold for £ 13,750 (US$ 18,254) inc. premium
Arnulf Rainer (Austrian, 1929)
... Strahlung (radiation)
1970

signed and titled
oil stick on photograph

47.2 by 59.5 cm.
18 9/16 by 23 7/16 in.

This work was executed circa 1970.

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Studio Santandrea, Milan
    Galleria Arte Centro, Milan
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner circa 1980


    Arnulf Rainer's ... Strahlung (radiation) belongs to Face Farces and Body Poses, a loose series of performative self-portraits that the artist began producing in the late 1960s. Whilst performance art largely played to an audience, Rainer's works were a solitary act executed late at night in a train station photo booth so as to avoid any distraction. Inside, the artist's face, contorted into a series of exaggerated expressions, was captured on camera. In preparation for these shots Rainer spent the day working himself into a trance-like state so that he could draw up what he, himself, described as "dormant, or psychopathic reserves of energy", as a means to express the subconscious self through extreme emotional release.

    On discussing the process the artist comments: "I am neither a painter, nor a poet, nor a sportsman, nor a film maker, nor a philosopher, but an exhibitor. In my work, figurative art is miming and gymnastics. Gesture, body dynamism or facial kinetics are for me neither a game nor a theatrical tool, much less a ritual, but consciousness, that is, the most important form of communication of man (and of many mammals). In order to document this body language in its static or moving aspects, I use photographs and films" (The artist in: 'Bodyposes', Flash Art, vol. 39, Feb. 1973, p. 12).

    The photo booth system was however problematic as any attempt to synchronise his poses with the camera's exposure required a level of concentration that undermined the process of autosuggestion. Subsequent works, including ... Strahlung (radiation), were shot by a professional photographer, an arrangement that resolved this by allowing the artist to focus entirely on his mental state.

    Rainer also made use of alcohol and drugs to intensify his performances, and whilst conceding that mind-altering drugs hindered his facial mobility, his consumption of mescaline in early 1970 shifted the works onto a new trajectory. Under its influence the artist 'witnessed' shifting spots of colour on the photographic prints, inspiring him to paint directly onto the surface of his works. His expressive renderings served the purpose of elevating the tension inherent in the portraits beyond what was achievable by the medium of photography alone. The present work, ... Strahlung (radiation), executed circa 1970, is a case in point. The artist's bare-chested torso, with arms outstretched and head thrown back in a quasi-religious pose; his facial features blurred but undoubtedly frozen in a moment of heightened tension- forms the core of this dramatic nuclear explosion. The violent gestural painterly scrawls in fiery red, ardent yellow and all-engulfing black, dramatically amplify the image's strained dynamism. This process of accentuation charges his works with a renewed immediacy, capturing the ephemeral act of performance in a fixed moment and yet rendering it as an enduring concrete legacy.
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