Günther Uecker: creating an instrument with which we can eat art

Our radically-edited Instagram feed continues to be a place of illumination: artist Günther Uecker, whose work we did not know, gave us a new view of art (that we somehow have felt all these years, but couldn’t name). Ueker often uses nails arranged into tactile, sculptural paintings as a kind of meditative ritual through which he expresses his understanding of the world.

It’s about taking the reality of everyday encounters with material that’s lying on the street and creating an expression of life, a cipher, a symbol, an instrument, not a sculpture but an instrument like a knife and fork with which we can eat art.

Oliver Mark CC BY-SA 4.0

Astonished, we stripped his statement down to its essence:

It’s about…creating… an instrument with which we can eat art.

Art as a kind of eating, food, nourishment.
And that got us thinking about the many kinds of nourishment, beyond food, we can take in: Nature, reading, interactions with people, art, movement, clouds.  Seeing them as nourishment seems to make them all the more meaningful and energizing.
This short video about Uecker’s work reveals the many levels of himself he accesses to create his “instruments with which we can eat art.” 

His artist’s statement is a poem:

Canvas glued onto wood
surfaces covered in thick
white paint, applied by
hand.

Emotions transform into
gestures, into artistic
actions—they become
visible and form a field,
like cropland, tilled and
furrowed, nailed, planted.

A crevice, a gash in the
painted field, struck from
behind with an axe;
a split in a evolving
structure, driven apart by
nails; a battlefield.

The shifting daylight
creates shadows in the nail
fields like those on a sundial.

Material becomes artistic
expression: painted,
broken apart, sown with
nails. The perception of
world events finds
reflection in the ‘Poetry of Destruction’—
applied to the surface,
inscribed on the ground,
buried, visibly rendered in
a dense poetic expression
of signs and ciphers.

White Field, mixed media sculpture by Günther Uecker, 1964, Tate Modern

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