Prof. Eberhard Fiebig


Opening Speech

Sassen Gallery, Berlin, 1991


First, I think it's important to say, Thomas Anschütz and I are friends and have known each other for 17 years. We met for the first time at the University of Kassel. That was in 1974. Thomas studied painting and, guided by the "painter professors" teaching in Kassel, painted in the style of an undefined realism. Incidentally, he visited my seminar "Social Photography", probably in the hope of gaining inspiration for his painting. He could not have guessed that I had cunningly chosen this title. At that time, it was simply the right tone to introduce the word "social" to every seminar title. Thomas was the only one of more than 50 students who immediately saw through the trick and soon brought it up under private eyes. We met more and more and talked a lot; about drinking, painting and women. From this time I have a very beautiful, impressive portrait, that he painted of me.


Later Thomas moved to Hamburg. Still later for 8 eventful years to New York to escape the past, the habits and the conformism. The descent into the 'American Way of Life', the spectacle of empty events, has challenged and motivated him to evacuate the realism of his paintings, and finally turn to painting, to develop the basis for the dark density of his paintings.


In 1990, Thomas returned from New York to settle in Berlin. That he has asked me to speak at the opening of his first exhibition after his New York years, I value as a tribute to our long-standing friendship.


Since the painters have freed themselves from the academic tradition and in their endeavor to create something elemental, real, only follow the laws of painting, they take the motifs of their pictures solely from the movement and the liveliness of their own art. The painter of our time no longer paints on commission, but on his own initiative and on his own responsibility. His only task and duty is to paint and unfold before us the beauty of painting. A sovereign painting, which is not just about imitating or mirroring things that are well known, or about putting painting at the service of a mindset. Even though we have long since learned and understood that painting is ruining, that one betrays painting, if one wants to make it useful to others other than painting, I consider it important to return to Matisse here as well who, for good reason, always pointed out that nothing should be represented in a picture, which can be described in words. For the picture is an independent organism made of colored lines, lines, surfaces and the only concern of the painter is to apply this painting.


These thoughts moved me when Thomas showed me his new pictures in his Berlin studio a few weeks ago. I had not seen any pictures of him for a long time, but knew that in recent years he had focused on black as the dominant color in his painting. So although I knew his love of black In all its manifestations, the bubbling concentration of black, which takes so much momentum in these pictures, seemed like a blow to me. And indeed, we have reason to realize in the force with which Thomas aims to unfold the black in all its nuances and hues, the whole slide of differentiated shades before our eyes, to recognize the difference to other contemporary painters. I know of no contemporary painter who attacks the white of the surface so vehemently to see what comes out of the explosion of black, like Thomas Anschütz. No one, like him, has so decidedly elevated the deep, solid black of which the most eminent painters say it is the queen among the colors to be the universal color of his pictures.


In this painting the predominance of the black, seldom flanked by traces of color of other tint, in the simplest and at the same time most dangerous form of the. Painting, in which no figurative problem has to be solved, Thomas Anschütz shows us that it suffices if in his paintings the enormous scale of material black rises to reveal to us the richness of color in painting. There is no doubt for me. Anschütz's paintings occupy a special position in modern painting, reminding me with their upsetting blackness of the pictures of Ad Reinhard and the most beautiful examples of Sho, the illustrable Japanese ink painting of haunting beauty. Undeterred by such a recognizable context, the paintings by Thomas Anschütz are works of original form and individual beauty. Created to deepen our knowledge and, above all, our experience. In all pictures that we have the luck today to see, we should be aware that they all come from one desire only. The love of painting.