Rupprecht Geiger

Born in Munich in 1908, died 2009 in Munich

In producing a work for one of the protocol rooms, Geiger was faced with the same problem as Georg Karl Pfahler in the chamber of the Council of Elders: twothirds of the walls in both rooms are covered with bright blue panelling. Pfahler chose to let his coloured objects encroach on the panels. Geiger, on the other hand, pushed the blue of the panelling into the background with the vitality of his brilliant orange-and-red frieze painted above it.

Geiger is another of those artists who succeeded in overcoming the all-pervading influence of Art Informel in the 1950s. He had already focused on colour, which he called a ‘basic element of painting’, before 1945. Interestingly, it was while painting his first landscapes in watercolour in Russia that he discovered the elemental force of colour: ‘The sea of colour produced there by the pure continental air, especially in the morning and the evening, when the sky tones spread upwards with incredible breadth, was perhaps the single experience that was most formative and had most lasting influence.’

Such experiences led Geiger to engage in an almost obsessive study of colour and its effects. He himself stated: ‘I’m preoccupied with colour, with colour alone and how it is perceived.’ Revealing colour’s intrinsic characteristics entailed releasing it from its descriptive function. Hence, Geiger rigorously explored ways of isolating colour from such ‘external interference’. He experimented with shaped canvases, adapting the form of the picture plane to the image rather than forcing the image to accommodate itself to a rectangular picture plane.

He investigated various sequences of motifs, ranging from surreal landscapes to abstract shapes, before arriving at three basic forms that best suited his purpose: the rectangle, the circle and the ellipse. Geiger explains: ‘The variety of abstract forms with their often bizarre outlines distracts attention from the colour, whereas such archetypal shapes as the rectangle and the circle allow colour to unfold unhindered.’

He reduces the formal qualities of these shapes, their geometrical severity, by spraying the paint onto the picture plane to blur their contours. The artist further dematerialises every aspect of his canvases apart from their colour by using fluorescent colours, which he describes as ‘abstract’ because they do not occur in nature.

These paints help Geiger to release colour from the constraints of its physical support – the canvas – and make of works such as the frieze in the Reichstag Building an immaterial coloured space radiating towards the viewer.