Günther Uecker

"Verborgen 5 (Concealed 5)", 2007

Kimono fabric, synthetics, acrylic, nails on wood

42 x 63 x 6,5 cm  ″

Titled, signed, dated

N 9056

About the work

Born in 1930 in Wendorf/Mecklenburg, Günther Uecker initially attended the art academy in Wismar before continuing his education at the Berliner Kunsthochschule Weißensee. In 1953 he settled in the West. In common with many of his contemporaries, he sought at the beginning of his career a counter–pole to the Art Informel movement of the late 1950s which ultimately prompted him to join the ZERO artists' group in 1961. Motivated by the necessity of the German art scene to undergo a root–and–branch reform after WWII, the group was founded by Heinz Mack und Otto Piene in 1957. Alongside other key artistic movements, this group also started from scratch as it were, following the terror of the NS regime and the ravages of war. From the perspective of these young artists it was no longer possible, both morally and ethically, to build on previous traditions. However, rather than propagating a desire to reflect on the past, these artists set out with a great deal of idealism to aestheticise and sensitise society for art. Motivated by this sense of renewal, their works fostered the emergence of new forms of art such as sound and light performances and puristic reductions of colour and form.
It was within this fertile environment that Uecker experienced a pivotal moment which was to shape his entire overall artistic career, namely his experimentation with a piece of wood studded with nails. The patterns and marks left on the painted wood by these rather random imprints, both fascinated him and prompted him to experiment further. Objects – hitherto the preserve of the non–artistic field – became the hallmark of Günther Uecker's profound artistic expression. The nail – which under Uecker became a kind of shorthand for lines and points, dynamics and stasis – assumed a painterly aspect. For Günther Uecker art is never an end in itself, but always a commentary. And his didactic, intellectual approach is deeply rooted in his output.
The work Concealed 5 forms part of a 12–piece group which Günther Uecker executed in 2007, following numerous visits to Japan (between 1984 und 2007). It is also important to mention in this regard that since the early 1950s, the artist had intensively studied Japanese Zen–Buddhism. Thus his artistic activity cannot be viewed as totally divorced from his fundamental worldview. "After six protracted stays in this country, and repeated visits to the holy shrines, and after completely immersing myself in the language and gestural means of expression of the people here, I am endeavouring to sculpturally formulate in a calender the impressions I gained over these years."
In the work group "Concealed", the wooden panels are covered by the fabric of various kimonos and then processed with acrylic and nails. Yet the work does not readily divulge its contents, with the paint and nails partially concealing the patterns of the kimono fabric. Firmly embedded within the canvas board, the nails are subsequently bent to cover the surface, with two or three nails always cutting across each other to a create a nexus at the point of intersection. Uecker has dubbed this process "over–nailing". "Under my modus operandi, the concealed becomes a non–verbal form of expression within the work. What is concealed remains a mystery, preserved by over–nailing." The mystery within the image remains concealed. Although the serial nature of the group invites comparisons between its different pieces, each and every work harbours a distinct and intrinsic sculptural value by virtue of the differing textiles used. Thus what lies concealed beneath the surface of the picture it is not explicable in words. "Nothing can be peeled away, nothing hidden beneath the textiles, the garments or the sections of the kimono can be identified – it is all covered." In our endeavour to reveal the content of the work it is pointless to analysis the layers of the picture; solely our immersion into the object can lead us to an understanding. The great Japanese Zen Master D. T. Suzuki (1870–1966) explains: "The method of Zen entails immersing oneself into the object itself and looking at it from the inside, as it were." With Günther Uecker "the external surface studded with nails [...] covers the concealed, layered material of the image."
(Andrea Fink–Belgin)

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