What is a restrained ray

Reticent painter prince

Kunsthalle Karlsruhe shows etchings by Gotthard Graubner

By Oliver Seppelfricke

Gotthard Graubner made his "pillow pictures", colored cotton wool pillows on canvas supports, famous. But the artist also produced excellent watercolors, drawings and etchings. Visitors can see this for themselves in Karlsruhe at the moment.

The artist Gotthard Graubner is a rather calm person. The grand seigneur of German painting, who likes to appear in a white linen suit and sun hat and, with his long beard, is more reminiscent of Monet or Rodin, although he belongs to the same generation of "German painter princes", never met the noisy and celebrating society of Baselitz, Lüpertz, Immendorf and Co. visited.

Graubner became known at the same time as the one in the 1970s. It was his "pillow pictures" that made him famous all over the world. Cotton cushions dyed deeply in color on canvas supports. They have a meditative radiance and luminosity like only Mark Rothko's Monochrome. But of course the artist did not only produce pillow pictures all his life. He watercolors and draws regularly, and his tools also include etching, as you can see now in Karlsruhe. Gotthard Graubner:

"Not everything that is done with a brush is painting. Painting is a much larger, broader term. In this respect, I would immediately count these etchings as painting. I paint with other means, not with the brush, here I use the." Painted copper plate, if you will, or with the tin plate, with a needle and acid. "

But not all etchings are created equal. You can erase with drypoint or with line etching, in letterpress or gravure printing, on copper plate, aluminum, zinc, glass or even on marble, on Japanese or handmade paper or in a process called "vernis mou".

"A mou is simply a soft ground that is applied to the plate. And every touch takes something away from the soft ground and later becomes an etched surface. It's very simple and simple."

The results are striking. Mainly because the artist set up this exhibition himself. It was important to him to show development lines, but also to allow breaks. Breaks in which you can let what you see have an effect. All of this has succeeded in a masterly manner.

The prelude to works from the last few years, rather large-format, the printing plate can be 100 by 80 centimeters, Gotthard Graubner is testing the appearance of different color values ​​on one and the same printing plate. From almost disappearing pure white it goes through purple and blue to green and deep black. Then it continues chronologically in the many individual cabinets:

"I have always tried to break this idea of ​​the plate that people had of screen printing in the 1970s, for example, it was all very flat and decorative. I just have a different idea of ​​color space. That is actually my topic When it came to etching, I was always attracted to thinking about the fact that you can get something soft from a hard record, and once you step into it, you become curious and then you are in a process.

And so the etching really caught me. I did most of the graphics in etching. Very early, of course, as a young man, I made woodcuts and what I don't know. Everything has been tried. But I actually got stuck with the etching. "

In their color shades and different color strengths, Graubner's etchings are reminiscent of his watercolors. You have to get close to the sheet to notice that it is a print. The one with the contrast plays with the hard needle and the soft color, with the smooth line and the unlimited color space. With the brittleness of the material and the softness and delicacy of the expression.

"Everything arose from the experiment. So whether others have already done it has never really interested me. Then I found it for myself. Found something new."

The results are wonderful etchings that are mostly abstract. Sometimes a landscape can only be recognized by chance, horizon or mountains that have formed themselves in the sheet. The colors range from snow white to dark black, and you can experience a journey of discovery through the technique of etching and a re-encounter with one of the great artists of our time on around 300 sheets.

"That is then my own, that I then try to bring in the color in a certain form. I then mix my colors myself and so on and that's why there are also many test prints and status prints. I make very few editions.

So I'm not interested in copying. I'm interested in the process. And then of course the same motif emerges over and over again, or from the apparently same motif, in the end you often cannot recognize the motif that was at the beginning. Because it was completely changed by the color. "