Gotthard Graubner

© Lothar Wolleh Estate, Berlin / Foto: Lothar Wolleh

“It is by lending his body to the world that the painter transforms the world into painting,”1 writes the philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty. The painter Gotthard Graubner expands this principle with his voluminous three-dimensional picture cushions by turning them into a body in their own right. Using wet, interflowing colours and specially developed painting tools, he infuses the cotton-filled picture cushions until the colour develops a life of its own and the picture object becomes a colour-space body. Graubner did not paint paintings: his work was rather a pure form of painting, moving in a realm beyond representational illustration, in the polarity of warm and cold, light and heavy, rising and falling, becoming and passing. “The actual reference to nature in my painting is the recreation of an organism, the breathing, the expanding and contracting,”2 says Graubner of his works. The early major work Stylit II, created in 1968, is one of a three-part group of works. Its white, purist surface and the soft picture body form an atmospheric membrane that pushes out into the room. At the centre of the painting, the vague contour of a slim figure appears. The title of the picture evokes those early Christian monks who, following the principles of asceticism, perched themselves atop pillars, where they inhabited a realm between heaven and earth. Graubner’s stylite shows a form shrouded in misty twilight, diffusing through the indefinable boundary between being and nothingness.

Ulrike Pennewitz

1 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “Das Auge und der Geist” (1961), in Das Auge und der Geist: Philosophische Essays, Hamburg, 2003, pp. 275–317, here: p. 278.
2 Gotthard Graubner, cited in Armine Hase, “Gotthard Graubner Malerei 1961–62”, Kunstforum International 82 (1986), p. 283.



In the exhibition:

Gotthard Graubner
Stylit II, 1969
Oil on foam cushion on canvas with perlon covered, plexiglass pane
200 x 130 x 8,5 cm
MKM Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst, Duisburg, Collection Ströher