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Günter Umberg

Territorium 11, 2010

Pigment, dammar, poliment, MDF

Various measures, 5 parts

© Artist

Photo: Gerhard Sauer


Can a picture consist solely of colour? What effect does colour’s property of simultaneously being both material and immaterial have on the painting and the person beholding it? It is vital questions like these that occupy the artist Günter Umberg in his work. After chiefly concentrating on lithography at the start of his career, in 1970 he began to paint. And right from the beginning his interest was caught by colour as substance, as paint, and the intrinsic value of colour; he was never concerned with a painting’s narrative content or with colour symbolism. After about ten years he arrived at the paint materials that have remained to this day characteristic of his work: pure, pulverised pigments. Since then he above all uses black pigments, but also includes blue, red and green. Umberg is one of the practitioners of Radical Painting, a circle of artists from the USA and western Europe who in the 1980s hearked back to the foundations of painting, above all the colours. As such, he produces works made with up to fifty layers of powdered pigment. Using a very time-consuming procedure, he applies loose pigments with a brush, alternating this with layers of dammar resin that has been dissolved in balsam turpentine and that he sprays on as a binding agent. A painting is first finished when the artist regards the colour to be sufficiently intense.


Günter Umberg has repeatedly placed individual works in relation to one another and in that way formed carefully composed groups which he designates as “territories”. Territorium 11 [Territory 11]consists of five vertical rectangular pictures made in different sizes with various black and green nuances. Their velvety surfaces, which are extremely sensitive to touch, generate a strong draw and suggest bottomless depths, but simultaneously the colour with its concentrated physical and immaterial presence goes beyond the concrete bounds of the picture out into the gallery space. Since the massive picture carriers made of MDF are, as so often in Umberg’s works, bevelled and consequently cast subtle shadows, the individual pieces seem veritably to float before the wall. The impressive effect created by the constellation comes not merely from the intensity of the colours, whose concentrated aura is hard to escape, but also from the finely balanced play between the picture objects and their dynamic arrangement around a centre of energy. Günter Umberg has incidentally arranged Territorium 11 in an exact square, thus paying his respects to the underlying theme of the Marli Hoppe-Ritter Collection: his “territorial expansion” on the surface of the wall measures exactly 243 centimetres both on the vertical as well the horizontal.


Günter Umberg

1942 born in Bonn

Lives and works in Cologne and Corberon (FR)