Is the glass half empty or half full? You probably know the saying that teasingly points out that we can choose what we want to focus on. Either on what is there. Or on that which is not there.
In the painting Missing squares Richard Winther does the same exercise with us looking at the picture. Museum curator Tine Nielsen Fabienke explains here why the artist wants to send our senses and brain to training camp.
Why is the painting here so remarkable?
“It's because it testifies to Richard Winther's incredible ability to challenge us spectators in a very refined way.
It is a paradoxical painting. First of all because the title Missing squares makes us focus on something that is not there. If the squares are the motif of the work, it is a paradox that they have disappeared. They are holes in a template.
Furthermore, it is an interesting transitional work in Richard Winther's very extensive work.
Today, he is best known for his groundbreaking photographs and fabulous figure images. But in the late 1940s, he painted abstract with rigorous, geometric shapes. Here in 1956 he also uses organic forms, like the oval we see here. ”
What did Richard Winther want with the artwork?
“He challenges our way of perceiving the world through the senses. He wants to make us aware that we ourselves are helping to finish the picture in our head when we look at it. For example, by making us see some squares that are missing.
Another example is the beautiful blue oval shape. At first glance, it appears as a whole shape, but if you look for it, it is completely pierced at the edge. Yet the figure activates our imagination so that we ourselves complete it and see an oval.
The experiments with breakthroughs gained momentum when Winther stayed in Paris for a period. It was shortly before he painted Missing squares. Here he worked with graphics, photography and film. It infected his way of painting. He transferred the techniques and expressions of the other media to the painting, so that more movement and ambiguity entered the motifs. ”
What does the painting tell us about the time it was created?
Richard Winther's artistic development was marked by Linien II, of which he was a co-founder. It was an association of artists who, after World War II, wanted to do away with art that was based solely on the artist's emotions and the spontaneous. For example, the Cobra movement with Danish Asger Jorn.
The artists in Line II were inspired by the avant-garde before the war and by the art they encountered in Paris after 1945. They were young, controversial and radical. In 1948, for example, Richard Winther writes that the abstract art of the time is “an emotion-breeding masked impressionism” that must be destroyed.
In his own words, he therefore breaks "consistently with any connection with the external nature". We call it concrete art today. That is, the shapes and colors should not be seen as anything other than what they are: shapes and colors.
His vision was that the new imagery should help rebuild the world after the war because everyone would be able to get something out of the image. No matter what continent or culture they came from.
But Line II's very dogmatic approach to painting quickly became too much for Richard Winther. As early as the 1950s, he moved on. Now he was more interested in how the individual meets the work of art. ”
Richard Winther (1926-2007)
Material: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 69,5 x 99,5 cm
Acquisition: Bequest 1984 from Erik C. Mengel
What characterizes Richard Winther's technique?
“The interesting thing about the painting here is that he has used standardized shapes and templates that are in themselves quite boring. But because he creates overlaps and offsets, he sets the whole picture in motion. That way, you can keep looking at it and try to understand how it relates. ”
Three important details according to Tine Nielsen Fabienke:
1.“The blue oval shows how much one's imagination helps to form the image. The surface is completely pierced at the edge, and yet it looks like a clear shape. The same goes for the red triangle. ”
2.“If you walk close to the missing squares, you can see that there are remnants of paint along the edges. It adds something random and unexpected to the tight templates. ”
3. “An interesting center of gravity emerges to the right of the center of the image. Where there are the most layers on top of each other. Here the motif becomes really complex and changeable. It almost flickers before one's eyes. "
Please note that the work is not necessarily exhibited in the museum.
Tine Nielsen Fabienke is an art historian and curator at Fuglsang Kunstmuseum. Here she is, among other things, in charge of the museum's exhibitions.
Note: Danish only