The paintings of Hanns Kunitzberger take an approach to colour that feels rooted in nature and the forces of meteorology. However his colour is not captive to describing these phenomena, rather it marries with a sophisticated and tender gesture to evoke atmospheres that are as much cerebral as visceral, as much metaphysical as physical.
In his Berlin studio in late October, the weather outside had already turned and the heaviness and portent that accompanies the onset of winter in northern Europe was waiting. Inside the studio however there was an entirely different atmosphere, the paintings seemed to be spirited by the most subtle vibrations of colour and touch. The considerations that Kunitzberger makes about the support, the nature of the linen, all seemed to be impacting the behaviour of the paint so that some seemed to reach forward to meet our gaze and others displayed a reticence and reserve – a soto voce quality that quietened the entire room.
One cannot look at such beautifully calibrated paintings where colour looms and swells and not bring Mark Rothko to mind but Kunitzberger’s romanticism is cooled by a less theatrical tendency that is perhaps closer to Ad Reinhardt. There is such delicacy in the way that pigment is finessed, where its quiet accumulation rises like the gentlest note that is almost imperceptible at first but builds decibel by decibel until your senses are taken over by it.
The experience of Kunitzberger’s paintings on that brisk Berlin day will stay with me for a long time. For those who are witless enough to have declared painting dead or late modernism as the last gasp of a Utopian illusion, I found Hann’s paintings both invigorating and relevant.