The German artist Anselm Kiefer, inspired by the biomorphic water-colour drawings of his teacher Joseph Beuys, started using the medium in 1969. In a book entitled 'Heroic Symbols', he juxtaposed photographs of himself doing the Nazi salute with deliberately nave water-colours of the same subject. Kiefer's intention was to confront the 'repressed' Nazi past: 'I have to re-enact just a little bit in order to understand the madness.' The use of water- colour in this context was very loaded. Like his subject matter it was a medium that had been largely 'repressed' by post-war art.
The perceived lack of sophistication and scale of water-colour was to attract many artists in the Seventies and Eighties. It was primitive, risque, raw. It had an intimacy, and a poignant fragility. As such, it has been used by German Neo-Expressionist painters such as Baselitz, Immendorf, Penck, and Richter. The Italian Neo-Expressionist Francesco Clemente has used it for steamy self-portraits and Jungian abstractions.
One of the attractions of water-colour for the English semi-abstract artist Therese Oulton is its underdog status. She makes water-colours wherever she goes: 'I carry the water-colour box with me like a Victorian lady. It's supposed to be a lady's medium, a second-class citizen. I rather like that'. Richard Hamilton, that resolute purveyor of 'bad' taste, only occasionally makes water- colours, but he admits that his thin, transparent style of painting (as in the 'Flower- Pieces' and 'Soft Landscapes') mimics the medium: 'I do tend to use oil paint in a watery kind of way. My paintings are really like giant water-colours' Richard Long is an interesting case. His mud drawings are essentially topographical water-colours. In order to make them, Long extracts mud from a local site, such as the River Avon, and uses the mud to make abstract patterns on paper. These monochrome daubs of dried mud are blots from the landscape . . .Reuse content