Karl Otto Götz is one of my favorite painters. He is one of the main exponents in Germany of the “Informel”, the European counterpart to the American Abstract Expressionism. As an arts professor at Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, he also was a teacher of several important artists, including, for example, Gerhard Richter.
Should you be in, or travel to, Berlin between December this year to March next year, you can take the opportunity to visit an exhibition showing works of Götz in Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin from December 13th 2013 to March 2nd, 2014. Don’t miss it if you have the opportunity! I hope I won’t (the exhibition is travelling to Duisburg afterwards, which is nearer to where I live, so I am going to see it there; see the link to Götz’s home page below, there is a list of exhibitions and there are several of them)! During the time of that exhibition, on 22nd of February 2014, Götz will, hopefully, celebrate his 100th birthday. The picture above, created in 2012, shows that, even at such an advanced age (and even largely blind), an artist can still be productive, and produce great works.
Götz is painting his pictures in a very short time, but after an extensive time of preparation and planning. He eventually tries to do the actual painting process in a few seconds, in order to avoid too much conscious interference or control in the movements of the painting process. In 1959 he described the method he was then using in the following way (translation by myself):
According to the scheme 2:1:1/2, a three-step painting process was employed. About two seconds length of the first inscription. Pause. Control of what has happened. Meditation on what is coming. About one second length of the second inscription, with the sqeegee, Pause. Control of what has happened. Meditation on what is coming., about half a second, length of the third and last intervention with the empty paintbrush. Long pause and control of the finished picture. Approval or obliteration. *)
I suspect that in his more complex paintings, he is using several cycles of this kind or some modification of this scheme, but according of what I have read (and seen on TV) this largely describes the way he is working till today. Before creating paintings in this way, he spends time to plan the pictures, making sketches, drafts and studies. He developed a number of picture schemes he is using repeatedly (resulting in similar, but also different pictures). It looks like these are partially implemented in the form of movement patterns that enable him to continue painting even after becoming blind (today his wife, the painter Rissa, is doing the final control of the resulting pictures). Götz started painting in this way in 1952 after discovering that a mix of certain paints with wallpaper paste had a consistency allowing this way of fast work.
Since I am interested in the role of randomness in art, and the method of painting developed by Götz incorporates a great deal of that, I am also theoretically interested in his work. It was also of special interest for me to learn that he has published some articles on perceptual psychology and on information theory as applied to arts, an approach to aesthetics prevalent in the 1950s and 1960s that is connected to my own thoughts about the topic.
Here is another picture, from 1968:
(The pictures are from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LezukIII.jpg and http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Riemu.jpg).
*) “Nach dem Schema 2:1:1/2 wurde ein dreiteiliger Malvorgang angewandt. Ca. zwei Sekunden, Dauer der ersten Niederschrift. Pause. Kontrolle des Geschehenen, Meditation des Kommenden. Ca. eine Sekunde, Dauer der zweiten Niederschrift, mit dem Rakel. Pause. Kontrolle des Geschehenen. Meditation des Kommenden, Ca. eine halbe Sekunde, Dauer des dritten und letzend Eingriffs mit leerem Pinsel. Lange Pause und Kontrolle des fertigen Bildes: Anerkennung oder Auslöschung”. Citation from: Tayfund Belgin, “Was ist Informel? Eine Annäherung über Bildkategorien” in “Kunse des Informel. Malerei und Skulptur nach 1952″ (Tayfun Belgin, ed.), Köln, 1997”, cited according to “Karl Otto Götz ‘In Erwartung Blitzschneller Wunder'”, Kerber Art. 2010 (Catalog of an Exhibition in Museum Rolandseck).
You can find the very interesting oficial page of K. O. Götz here.
An article about him in the online version of German news magazin Der Spiegel can be found here.
Another article from the online edition of German weekly paper Die Zeit can be found here.
A video on the web site of German TV station Das Erste. Much of what he is saying there is cited in the Die Zeit article linked above. Unfortunately, the video is only available here until 26th of January. Don’t miss the chance to see him painting.
Actually, there are lots of articles at the moment, now that Götz is turning 100, I cannot link them all, at least not directly.