- Günther Uecker
- signed, titled and dated 1964-74 on the reverse
pencil and nails on canvas on wood
- 100 by 100cm.; 39 3/8 by 39 3/8 in.
Private Collection, Germany
Private Collection, Cologne (acquired by the present owner in 2001)
Exhibition Catalogue, Lodz, Museum Sztuki, Günther Uecker: Struktury, 1974-75, n.p. illustrated
Dieter Honisch, Uecker, Stuttgart 1983, p.198, no. 387, illustrated
Ralph Merten, Günther Uecker, Max Ackermann, Wirklichkeit der Farbe, Farben der Wirklichkeit, Stuttgart 1992, p. 57, illustrated
Exquisitely minimal and stunningly poetic, Günther Uecker's Spirale exhibits the brilliance of one of the most significant artists of the late twentieth century. The dense cluster of nails at the centre of this vortex draws the viewer's eye to the picture plane, emphasising the disparity between the two-dimensional surface of the canvas and the sculptural projection of angular nails spinning out from the core. The shadows between the nails thrown amongst each other, result in a sense of direction and energy that surpasses their functionality and elevates them to tools of imagination and steely beauty.
Working with the canvas laid flat, Uecker would hammer nails systematically outwards, the inclination of each nail directly reflecting the movement of his body around the work. The intense physical action of this labour is breath-taking in the scale and complexity of its execution; seemingly perfect spirals of rhythmical circles create a spinning optical illusion that was created by the artist operating 'at lightening speed in a single, uninterrupted action' (Exhibition Catalogue, Berlin, Nuer Berliner Kunstverein,Günter Uecker: Twenty Chapters, 2006,p. 60).
This mesmerising aesthetic language was developed during Uecker's position at the forefront of the European avant-garde collective 'Zero', an association that propelled him to international fame in the mid-1960s during which period the present work was conceived. The collective, which included Heinz Mack and Otto Piene, dedicated their work to creating a new visual language which broke away from the traditional canon, and powerfully asserted the new ambitions of the age. For Günther Uecker this language was manifest in an emphatically raw and pure abstraction, and nowhere is this more potently expressed than in his 'nail paintings' of which the present work is a consummate example.
Stereotypical forms such circles, discs, and spirals recur frequently in Uecker's work and the artist has often compared his thought patterns and artistic actions to that of a circle in the sense of repetition and mutation, as well as representing his interest in the principles of continuity in space and time. The artist's spatial concerns are aptly demonstrated by Spirale, which by its very title, evokes a non -material infinitude. This is then sharply contrasted with the physical materiality emphasised by nails, and further creates a dialogue between the existence of the work as an art object and the realm of the real into which the nails project.