“The painting should not become a story,” Robert Muntean remarked in a conversation. We were in his studio in Berlin, looking at some recent paintings, and talking about to what extent a painting should be defined and legible. Muntean does not want the painting to present a completed narrative that the viewer can read as if it were a story in the newspaper or a graphic novel. What counts for him is the appearance, the presence of a human figure, and the sensations that the painting evokes. The artist is intent on what he calls the “sound” of a painting.
Wondering how this works in painting, I would replace the word “sound” by “color,” as to me, Muntean is essentially a colorist. It is in color that he can create friction and harmony, counterpoint, and chromaticism. The paintings work as thoughtful color configurations.
What marks the difference between the individual paintings is the way one color is laid out in different gradations, and the expression that this brings forth, be it fierce, melancholic, edgy, or gentle. There is a whole spectrum, from the smooth fading of one color into another, through to collisions of colors that do not like each other. Each painting has its own key and turbulence.
A lot of decisions, if you can call them so, are made with the brush in the hand, poised before the canvas. There is not a pre-existing design of how the final image should look, just the notion that a figure will “appear” and develop during the process of painting.
To work in this manner, without knowing exactly what the result will be, and allowing for accidents, a painter must be willing to surrender to the act of painting and to “not knowing.” A lot of paint has been taken away from the surface by the time the painting is finished. The reward for this can be discovery and surprise, new formations (rather than compositions) inhabiting the canvas.