We are pleased to present new, luminous monochrome paintings that capture light, movement and energy expressed in highly minimalistic compositions by Udo Nöger.
Nöger (b. 1961), who grew up in Enger, in Westphalia, Germany, emigrated to the U.S. in 1990. In the early part of his career, he was known for his expressive figurative paintings exploring the dimensionality of color. These raw, layered, mixed-media works were often populated by mysterious, archaic figures and symbolically charged imagery inspired by his travels.
One such trip was to the South Pacific, where Nöger encountered ancient Rongorongo writings; a series of elemental glyphs composed of animals, figures and symbols used by the people of Easter Island centuries ago. Over time, he began to incorporate this ancient iconography into his work, eventually creating his own pictorial language, which gradually became more abstract and more minimal. At the same time, Nöger began to distill and refine his palette of dark, earthy hues until color began to disappear altogether.
By the mid-nineties, Nöger began to focus exclusively on the interaction between light, space and color, moving away from his aggressive, figurative style in favor of a minimal aesthetic that reduced his concepts to their simplest forms. He began cutting holes in his canvases, literally eliminating anything extraneous. His desire to delve inside the canvas in order to amplify light prompted him to develop techniques to reveal what lies beneath the surface, both materially and conceptually.
Nöger experimented with paper at first, creating translucency with mineral oil to see the effects of light on pigment applied to the underside paper. He then took the idea further, developing a technique that enabled him not just to cut holes or slash the surface of his canvases, but cut shapes beneath the surface, in order to capture, transform and reflect light, seemingly from inside the paintings. What distinguishes Nöger from other artists whose work is based on light is that he engages light itself as a medium.
To produce works that appear to emanate light from within, Nöger employs an almost architectural approach. The paintings comprise three layers of canvas mounted on stretchers set at a distance from one another. The interior canvas, from which the artist cuts out simplified biomorphic forms, functions as the actual pictorial plane. Once the internal composition is complete, the outermost surface is treated with mineral oil to amplify translucency and bring the composition, cocooned inside the painting, to the forefront.
The resulting works are subtle and subtly affected by the surrounding atmosphere. The type of light, quality of light, even the time of day can impact the viewing experience. While the paintings are rendered in a restrained palette of soft whites and grays, depending on the light that illuminates the work, faint shades of blue, purple and green can emerge.
Nöger’s endeavor to eliminate visual clutter leaves only the essential elements required to convey information—light, space and form. In doing so, the artist provides a unique sensory experience, one in which the intangible becomes material, but what is visible is merely an illusion.
This exhibition of new works on canvas is accompanied by a series of charcoal drawings on wood. Primitive and elemental in style and substance, they exemplify the artist’s desire to reduce expression to its purest form.