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A.R. Penck

The Way, Germany, 1989

Acrylic on canvas, 150x200 cm

Courtesy of Galerie Michael Werner, Berlin, Cologne and New York

A.R. Penck is considered as one of the important artists of our time. Since he crossed the Iron Curtain in the 1980s, Penck, in his distinctive and familiar language, has created compositions that place man at their center. With their universal language, his works, which traverse the boundaries of time, portray man’s place in nature as a capricious life-environment.

The matchstick-man figure, which he developed in the ’60s, appears in all his paintings. This figure, though symbolic and somewhat abstract, has established itself as a familiar trademark that traverses the history of culture, from the prehistoric, primitive paintings to the essence of the outward aspect of modern man. Penck develops a broad spectrum of familiar symbols, and his artistic language tends more to the concept that produces “visual information”. His works express his political-philosophical outlook, most often implicitly rather than explicitly, and in the end they remain mysterious. Since it is abstract and difficult to interpret, his art conveys its political messages by means of its symbolic images, with allusions referring to contemporary events. In Penck’s works man moves between poles, between socialism and capitalism and between violence and solidarity. Penck once said that the East is a desert and the West is a human jungle, and that the expressions of both could be measured by the conduct of the political systems that exist on both sides.

His work “The Way” depicts the relationship between man and his immediate environment. The images encompassing him limit his movement in space, and at the same time serve as stepping stones that direct his movement.