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Berlin, Germany 1936 – Sydney Australia 2013

  • Canada 1956-58
  • Australia from 1959

Red, silver, black 1974 Materials & Technique: paintings, synthetic polymer paint on canvas

Dimensions: 218.5 h x 167.7 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1974
Accession No: NGA 74.529

In the late 1960s and 1970s, many artists began to pare down their materials and processes in reaction against the expressionist art of the previous generation.

Gunter Christmann’s painting of 1974 is about the art of painting. Red, silver and black, of which only red is considered a colour, have been used in abstract shapes that echo the rectangle of the canvas. However, the painting’s sensual surface and the soft, sometime dribbled edges of the shapes subvert the abstract intention. Most of all, the brilliant speckled red, the most emotive of all colours, although contained by its frames of silver and black, has a strong emotional effect upon the viewer. In this way the artist, without a subject and employing his skills as a painter, has been able to call upon the experience of the viewer to create a strong and lasting impression.

Christmann established a reputation in the late 1960s for his abstract spatter paintings in which colours are juxtaposed to create a sense of optical vibration. During the 1980s, he returned to figurative painting using an expressive gestural approach. He has commented: ‘I go on painting because that way I can express myself in a concentrated essence. Rather than write, I put it all in a painting’.1

John McPhee2

1 Gunter Christmann ‘The Medium, the Message and the Marketplace’ Aspect vol.1, 1975 pp.9–12 (p.12).

2 Edited text from John McPhee Australian Art in the Collection of the Australian National Gallery Canberra: Australian National Gallery 1988 p.54.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002