The art world is mourning the loss of one of its greats as the news of A. R. Penck's passing hits the headlines for the start of May. The German born neo-expressionist is perhaps best known for his wacky and busy paintings depicting symbols and shapes from an entire cosmos of sub-conscious manifestations, the artist was also a sculptor whose pieces reside in some of the worlds most culturally rich establishments.
During his early career, Penck was living under the communist flag of the East German regime and his antics in creative expression caused the watchful eye of the secret police to carefully monitor his movements. Strange to think, but in the eyes of ultra-conformist authority anything that swims counter-current is seen as a risk to the societal status-quo. Brave work indeed, and he wasn't alone in his mission, as other big names such as Jorg Immendorff and Markus Lupetrz joined in with the establishment of neo-impressionism.
It has been said that his paintings took inspiration from Klee and Mayan symbology, while his sculpting was built on similar rock to the Easter Island heads. Often remarked as crudish, the form called upon heavy handedness and less attention to detail which ultimately resulted in striking and intuitive creations. Penck would use everyday items for his sculpting, finding use for old cardboard, bottles, and newspapers. What is considered creative upcycling today is perhaps inspired by the work of artists like these.
Because of his witness to World War II from the German side of the border, the art work is considered to resemble to trauma and effects upon the consciousness within his culture. The horrors of war are perhaps made worse by being on the losing side and although he was only a very small child, being born in 1939, there would have no doubt been a lasting impression of the aftermath. There is perhaps good reason why his works have been preserved and given the acclaim they received due to his association with these abstract but real human experiences.
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