Austrian painter and photographer. He had almost no academic training as an artist. From 1948 to 1951 he produced Surrealistic drawings representing underwater scenes and mystical forms, rendering these fantastic images in pencil as a densely worked surface. Deeply suspicious of rationality, he investigated the potential of dreams, madness and the subconscious; to these ends he co-founded the Hundsgruppe under the influence of French Surrealism in 1950.
He began to turn away from fantastic Surrealism. From 1951 to 1954 he worked on a series entitled Blind Drawings (e.g. 1952; see 1988 exh. cat., p. 27), in which he studied optical disintegration and the destruction of form, replacing pictorial composition and illusion with the immediacy of accidentally encountered textures. From 1953 to 1965 he devoted himself principally to a series of Overpaintings, in which he obliterated his early expressive drawings or pictures by friends with whose work he was in sympathy, to produce almost monochrome paintings dominated by black or red.
From 1956 Rainer became concerned with religious theories and practices, particularly in a group of paintings dominated by cruciform shapes. The interest in extreme emotional states hinted at in such works became even more pronounced in 1963, when he began to collect paintings by the insane, and in 1964, when he experimented with hallucinogenic drugs.
From the mid 1970s Rainer reworked photographs on a variety of subjects. Constantly adding to his repertory of images Rainer continued to exploit the interaction of intellectual meditation and bodily expression.