Calmness and balance are the criteria of the initial overpaintings. The aim is to examine the relationship between color and picture format and the tension between the edge of the picture, the painting support and the boundaries of the compact covering. It is a matter of concentration rather than gesticulation, of something tamed by painting and rooted in painting. Thus Rainer reaches a limit in his search for the origins of painting.

Covering up the weak parts of a picture, one after the other, until I could no longer see anything led me to do overpaintings. Out of love and an urge for perfection. I wanted to make even more beautiful artworks out of them; everything else is a rumor. ...Arnulf Rainer

In 1961, Rainer started overdrawing figures. What lies beneath determines the form of covering he chooses. He is no longer interested in overpainting completely but rather in creating an intense relationship to the covered original. The edges are frayed and in motion. Inspired by what lies beneath, he proceeds from there. His revisions and his corrections of the contours lend the overpaintings a creative rhythm that is in harmony with the covered subject, but might just as well break away and run riot.

I wanted broad darkness, an almost completely black picture. Extinction of expression, permanent covering and contemplative silence are the principles of the works I created from 1953 to 1965. ...Arnulf Rainer

Rainer said in an interview in 1975 that it was his own self that was slumbering beneath the overpaintings, which, however, are not abstractions but rather his own psychological and physical shrouding. His work can be divided into two groups, marked by externalization or internalization. Turning things inside out and exposing them, however, is always linked to the gestural and is thus amplified. Although the shrouding function of the overpainting physically erases the object beneath, the spiritual presence remains tangible due to the surface structure.

(Text: Christa Armann)