December 19, 2018

A series in which art critics choose the greatest painting in the world: Archibald Carver on Astrale Komposition XI by Wilhelm Morgner

Ahh! The dense, multi-layered, endlessly rewarding work of Wilhelm Monger. The Goethe of the paintbrush, the Shakespeare of oil paint, the one man who, had he lived would have made the difference, made the discoveries, made the leap between art and science. It sounds to the general nincompoopery of the world like extravagant praise but no praise is too extravagant for this, the one truly fine artist.

Let us focus our eyes on his Astrale Composition XI, noting in passing only the brilliance of his choice of title. Not Astrale Composition X or even Astrale Composition XII, but the sublime Astrale Composition XI. Eleven! But of course! How could it be anything else? Every other number is inordinately inferior. Of course there are moments when the number ten needs to be used. But Monger knew immediately that it was not now. No, only eleven would do. Sheer brilliance.

Astrale Komposition XI is without doubt one of the greatest paintings created by a human being. Look at the swirls, the rhythms, the curving, insalubrious effervations. Has ever an orange reverberated with more horror? A red been able to convey so much sadness and decay?  How like a rapier wielding cossack the artist enveres his work, the subtleties piling one on the other until, lo! they collapse under their own bravado and through too much subtlety become somehow ingrained with an essential inevitability. Clearly he has absorbed the ancients. Plato’s very essence sings from the canvas. Without Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations this painting could never have appeared so extant, so vibrantly hollow, so cummerbundently brilliant. There is nothing that this diversely brilliant image doesn’t attempt to say, and nothing that it doesn’t manage to shout, successfully, from the top of the skyscrapers of Soest. Never has colour been more thoroughly used to represent sheer vivacious femininity, never have mere temporal considerations been showered with such contemptuous reasoning.

Why is it that this uncorrupted art work is without question not only the greatest, most complex combinations of brush strokes ever to be laid together? Separately, no doubt, there may be better individual brush strokes. There is one brush stroke even I find more exquisite – it is on the top left of the ruff worn by Margaretha de Geer in her portrait by Rembrandt. But that is merely one brush stroke. Here there are thousands, all vying to be crowned greatest brush stroke ever. And that is before we talk of the colours. Colours which deafen and blind, chant the viewer into an apostasy of irrelevance. Never before have, or will, or shall have been, anything so unwaveringly succinct.

Art is ever being attacked, traduced and repelled by the philistinic tendencies encouraged by the very educatory systemic ambivalence that seeks to repostically enhance it’s own evolution. But whatever is said by art critics, artists or art professionals – and many of them will join in a cacophony of bile-tainted non-accepting disagreement – there is no better image. From the cave walls of the prehistoric Gevarettes to the contemporary dialogues between besuited curators, a liking and understanding of this painting is the very essence with which to derive intellectual capacity. And without a guide-price of excellent all fall short of the reserve.

Archibald Carver

1024px Astrale Komposition XI MORGNER Wilhelm Neuss Clemens Sels Museum

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