Rainer Gross lives and works in New York City, USA. Rainer was born in Cologne and has not only a studio in Long Island, USA but also in his hometown. His works are in various public collections. The most prominent ones are: 2013 Margaret Thatcher Projects, New York, USA, the Bernstein Collection, New York, USA, or the Chase Bank collection, New York, USA, as well as Hoffmann La Roche, Basel, Switzerland and the MGM Media Group Munich, Germany.
We wanted to get a deeper insight into sources of inspiration and working methods and asked some questions:
When did you start working as an artist?
I´ve always painted and never felt the need to write or make movies, even though I like to watch movies or read books. Here and there I also write essays for art catalogues, such as for the Larry Rivers retrospective in autumn 2019 at the Ludwig Museum in Koblenz.
When I was 15/16 I started with music, but at the same time I had always painted. We had founded a band in Cologne at that time. The music and the painting were simply one at a time. Many of us who started making art in the 60´s and had to found a band. There was no other way around. Some colleagues also continued with it during their studies. But then I devoted myself to painting.
Then you are also a musician?
Part of it. I never specialized in one instrument, I was always interested in different instruments and tried everywhere to get the best out of them with my limited possibilities.
I started out as a rock drummer, then over the years I also got into the guitar because I wanted to write my own songs. My relationship to music, guitar and drums is in itself, which continues to interest me and gives me the distance to painting.
What materials do you work with and why?
I work on paper and canvas with oil paint and pigments. I have embraced this principle, and this is my world.
Are there colors and shapes that you prefer?
I love all colours and don´t prefer any. For me colour is only important in relation to other colours. Colour alone has no meaning for me. I limit myself to my painting and don´t want to do any other kind of art at the moment.
Do you want to say something with your art?
I´m not interested in making my art understandable. Anyone who wants to see the works is welcome to do so. They speak for themselves and don t need any explanation. Everything is readable.
My current works are called Twins because they need each other. One work comes from the other, like twins that grow in the stomach. Twins arise from a division of genes, my pictures arise from the pulling apart of the canvases. In this respect, it also has a human character. For me, the pulling apart of Twins´ works is like a birth, because it has an organic character: the picture is, so to speak, `born´. The positions that then break open are not predictable. You don´t know exactly what you will get - like in a normal birth. The names of the twins are random, blindly chosen from the telephone book. Just as the children have to live with their names and fulfill them, the pictures have to get their names and fulfill them.
What is your relationship between music and art?
For me, music is a spiritual reappraisal. I like listening to music very much, I also make music myself. I try to harmonize myself through it. When I play some guitar in the evening, I just feel better.
What would you like to achieve in five years?
I am 68 years old now. In 5 years I hope to continue to work and to spread my work and to bring the people who have invested in my work now a better return later (laughs).
Why did you start working as an artist?
After my school education I just didn´t want to be employed somewhere. We were on the road with a lot of young people and a lot of music. Painting was our theme back then. I chose painting as a means of expression because I use it to formulate what I have to say without words.
What attracted you to America?
In 1972 I met the American painter Howard Kanovitz in Cologne. I went with him to the USA and then stayed there. Today I live and work partly in Germany and mainly in New York.
How do you proceed with your work?
My works of the last twenty years are so-called "twins". I work with two canvases. One canvas is full of overlapping pigments. An oil layer is applied to the second canvas. Then both are put together like a sandwich and worked with the hands and pulled apart again. The result is a monotype, a unique impression that is a surprise, both for me and for the viewer. So in the end you have two canvases that are shown next to each other.
One never knows exactly where the pigments break open, where the oil gets through and what exactly one gets. This is where the actual quality of my work lies, in chance, in the organic, in the process.
Where do you work?
I work in the USA and occasionally in Cologne. I live very secluded and my works are received in galleries and museums. From time to time I talk to customers, viewers or visitors about my work or I am invited to give lectures at universities or our academy. This is a nice change that allows me to recharge my own battery and then retire to solitude for about 6, 8, 10 weeks.
During my work I am in a trance, which I easily regard as absence from the other. At work I forget the time and everything else and can only deal with the materials, reflections and my intuition, comparable to football fans watching a game and being completely captivated. You don´t necessarily have to make art to experience that.
How would you describe your art?
The red thread in my art has been ‘change’ for years. After a certain point I noticed that there are different layers in my work, different levels, painterly levels, as well as collages and color levels. In the last 20 years I have reduced my painting so much that I only work with pure pigments, oil paint and canvas. The new Twins works reflect my American and German history, my life. My art in itself reflects the questions and complexity of life as I feel it and try to express it.
What are your goals?
My goal is to go on working until the end of my life and hopefully to bring many more beautiful pictures into the world.