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Gottfried Honegger

Onota, 1959
oil on canvas
51.0 x 51.0 cm
Onata belongs to the first series of Tableaux-Reliefs that Gottfried Honegger produced in New York from 1958 and which he exhibited at the Martha Jackson Gallery in 1960. It is composed of red canvases, where some parts present thick geometric elements that have been cut out or stuck on to create a mosaic and discontinuity effect on the monochrome surface.

Although, right from his first works, Honegger showed an interest in relief and the three-dimensional object, the invention of the Tableau-Relief constituted a strategic moment in his artistic quest and would leave an enduring mark on his work (Tableau-Relief P997, 1989). While extending the geometric abstraction with which he experimented from 1952, it was accompanied by new demands, such as the search for formal depth and the imperative exclusion of any personal stamp.

The subtle technique of relief allowed Honegger in fact to continue to produce monochrome works, more capable of concealing the artist’s intervention. For Honegger, art is not an expression of individuality, but a social ambition and a way to understand, through reason, the world’s complexity. His oeuvre can thus be associated with concrete painting, as it was defined by Theo van Doesburg in 1930, namely that the painting must be formulated by the mind in a rational way before it is carried out and must be made of purely formal elements, which is to say flat planes and colours, devoid of feelings and of any references to the exterior world.

Honegger would move beyond these precepts through his determination to shield his art from decision and subject it to the logic of nature in which organic structures are the result of random processes. He would hence entrust the choice of frameworks, forms and colours to the throw of the dice and then, later, to computer programming. Claiming to no longer be the person who conceives the work but merely a simple person who carries it out, he attempts to demythologise the role of the artist and to make the work of art accessible to everyone.
Gottfried Honegger, Onota, 1959