Dieter Honisch, Uecker, Stuttgart 1983, p. 218, no. 624
Gunther Uecker's best works are vehicles of communication; visual instruments that materialise processes of change and their emotional response present in the world. The continuous action of shifting and flux they manifest, of the undulating, ineradicable structure of movement, reflect the influence of his upbringing on the Wustrow Penninsula where the seasonal cycles, distance, weather, and the bright northern light were the familiar and overriding experiences of his youth.
The simplicity of the materials, and the power of their combined, lyrical effect, is paramount to the compelling visual force of Nagelbild which has remained in the same private collection since it was acquired from the artist in 1969. The gradated charcoal canvas background intensifies the unfolding drama of the angular nails as they disappear into the tightly packed depths of its centrifugally swirling core. It also serves to draw the viewer's eye beyond the protruding nail heads into the surface where the individual relationships between the nails, and the angular shadows they throw upon and amongst one other, result in a sense of direction and energy that surpasses their quotidian functionality.
Uecker became a dominant and influential figure in the 'Zero' group that emerged in Europe throughout the 1960s, and like the other artists associated with this movement, his use of nails for his art was an endeavour to manifest the purest and most physical sensation of light and movement as an expression of infinite and new possibility in art. His radical language, which is comparable to Lucio Fontana's invasion of cutting into the pictorial space, succeeded in liberating himself and other artists from the constraints of informal painting. With the use of nails, he had found a tool that was ideally suited to his artistic position, setting the starting point for increasingly frequent use of natural working materials in art.
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