Arnulf Rainer developed the pictorial language of overpainting in the mid-1950s. Human-sized pictures with designations such as black on yellow, black on ocher, green, blue, white ... characterize this group of works. The goal was an almost completely covered image. The artist extended the process of overpainting, putting new marks on the surface again and again. In his overpaintings, he applied paint in various ways, from pastose and opaque to glazing. Dense contemplative works emerged.

In the 1970s, Rainer had the idea for an unusual book project to take this process of covering even further. He mounted photographic reproductions of his early overpaintings onto aluminum plates of the right size for them to look like pages of a book. Subsequently, he painted over these in his usual manner, creating new intense works with a minimum of blank spaces, or “remnants.” They are reproducible in original size, and a selection of these works was published in 1978 as a book edition.

“Naturally, these pictures live from the remaining blank spaces, from being almost completely covered, from the ‘not yet’ principle. If one used the entire book page, it would be impossible to illustrate this surface principle. I’ve therefore decided to add gray borders. [...] In my large oil paintings, however, they don’t exist. In these subsequent works, their addition triggers a new pictorial thinking and strong changes in form. Thus the initial forms, that is, the old oil paintings, are hardly recognizable any longer.”

(Text: Christa Armann)

(Arnulf Rainer, in Schriften, edited by Corinna Thierolf, Ostfildern, 2010, pp. 171–172)