Horst Bartnig (*1936)

139 unterbrechungen in orange,

139 striche in schwarz,

139 unterbrechungen in türkis,

139 striche in weiß, 2003

acrylic auf on canvas each 100 x 100 cm


Since 1964, the artist Horst Bartnig, who currently lives in Berlin, has been active in the field of Concrete Constructive Art. Various groups of works, ranging from “Relationen” to “Variationen” and on to his “Unterbrechungen” and “Quadratgruppen” have been created since then, albeit not in any chronological order. At times different pieces arise parallel to one another, which underlines the wealth of variation that comes from his approach to Concrete Art and its grammar of forms. Bartnig is fascinated by clear, comprehensible composition in his paintings, rules out spontaneity of any kind in his working methods, and does not accept any form of chance.
Apart from a geometrical, unequivocal language of forms, he also employs another element used by Concrete Painting – mathematical formulae and calculations. Since 1979 he has worked together with mathematicians and programmers at the Zentralinstitut für Informatik und Rechentechnik in Berlin-Adlershof. This has resulted in paintings that present and vary the visual impact of logical progressions in both formal and chromatic terms, and that amount to far more than a simple illustration of mathematical combinations. Up to one hundred drawings may be generated on the computer before Bartnig actually applies the paint to the canvas. This procedure of enumerative visualization serves to develop a visual idea. The artist is constantly plagued by doubts that what has been produced on the monitor will not survive the translation to a large canvas, and as to whether a better solution could not be found.
An early observation while working on the computer – that the machine is capable of drawing very exact lines – led to the group of works called “Unterbrechungen” [Interruptions]. What in fact the computer was not supposed to draw, the gaps between the lines, became here the goal of Bartnig’s artistic endeavour. Analogous to a pause in music where nothing is played, in these paintings he focused on the visual pause, the invisible or what is in between. In addition, the choice of colours, such as complementary or warm-cold contrasts, provides further possibilities for lending rhythm to the interrupted lines and for additional dynamics. Seemingly chance interactions arise between the structures and the colours, even though every position and every gap is exactly calculated. Unlike the pioneers of Concrete Constructive Art, in his work Bartnig steers well clear of numerology and philosophies that claim to explain the universe. And for all the assistance he receives from the computer, he remains a painter who has genuinely produced a consistent body of work on the canvas.




1936   born in Militsch/Schlesien
lives and works in Berlin