When I first painted a number of canvases grey all over (about eight years ago), I did so because I did not know what to paint, or what there might be to paint: so wretched a start could lead to nothing meaningful. As time went on, however, I observed differences of quality among the grey surfaces – and also that these betrayed nothing of the destructive motivation that lay behind them. The pictures began to teach me. By generalizing a personal dilemma, they resolved it.

From a letter to Edy de Wilde, 23 February 1975, 1975 SOURCE

Grey. It makes no statement whatever; it evokes neither feelings nor associations: it is really neither visible nor invisible. Its inconspicuousness gives it the capacity to mediate, to make visible, in a positively illusionistic way, like a photograph. It has the capacity that no other colour has, to make 'nothing' visible.

From a letter to Edy de Wilde, 23 February 1975, 1975 SOURCE

To me, grey is the welcome and only possible equivalent for indifference, noncommitment, absence of opinion, absence of shape. But grey, like formlessness and the rest, can be real only as an idea, and so all I can do is create a colour nuance that means grey but is not it. The painting is then a mixture of grey as a fiction and grey as a visible, designated area of colour.

From a letter to Edy de Wilde, 23 February 1975, 1975 SOURCE

And how does this concept of 'untouched' apply to your art?
That's an ideal case. The grey paintings, for example, a painted grey surface, completely monochromatic – they come from a motivation, or result from a state, that was very negative. It has a lot to do with hopelessness, depression and such things. But it has to be turned on its head in the end, and has to come to a form where these paintings possess beauty. And in this case, it's not a carefree beauty, but rather a serious one.

Interview with Christiane Vielhaber, 1986, 1986 SOURCE

The paint for the grey paintings was mixed beforehand and then applied with different implements – sometimes a roller, sometimes a brush. It was only after painting them that I sometimes felt that the grey was not yet satisfactory and that another layer of paint was needed.

Comments on some works, 1991, 1991 SOURCE

You've often painted grey pictures in the course of the decades. Can you say something about that?
Difficult topic. The grey is certainly inspired by the photo-paintings, and, of course, it's related to the fact that I think grey is an important colour – the ideal colour for indifference, fence-sitting, keeping quiet, despair. In other words, for states of being and situations that affect one, and for which one would like to find a visual expression.

Interview with Jan Thorn-Prikker, 2004, 2004 SOURCE

back to top