Along with fellow German artists Georg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer and Markus Lüpertz, A.R. Penck (pseudonym of Ralf Winkler, 1939 - 2017) helped paved the way for a new attitude in art after the Second World War. While many young German artists were opting for an abstract idiom, Penck and the others preferred to depict the visible reality of daily life in work that continued a long European figurative tradition. The retrospective A.R. Penck - How It Works at Kunstmuseum Den Haag
shows how as an artist Penck continually sought and found freedom.
The exhibition examines how Penck explored the medium of painting throughout his life. He was driven not by any system or rational narrative, but by apparent chaos and emotion. In every drawing and every painting he set out to create a purely visual space where the imagination could thrive and viewers could lose themselves.
In the 1960s he developed an idiosyncratic visual idiom consisting of signs and symbols that did not go unnoticed in the west. His fame and appreciation of his work grew after he met the young entrepreneurial Cologne gallery owner Michael Werner in 1965.
After he left the GDR in 1980, moving first to Cologne, then to London and Ireland, Penck gained access to all kinds of paint, canvas, board, paper a wealth of materials. This led to an explosion of productivity in the 1980s. He also started signing his work with different names, including Mike Hammer, T.M. and Y. One noticeable feature of his style of drawing and painting was the five different types that emerged: an abstract style dominated by symbols, a figurative style in which caricatured forms dominated, a purely automatic graphic style, an illusionist manner of working and a destructive approach. Penck was equally at home with all these forms of expression, preferring to use them all simultaneously. It is not always possible to say whether a particular motif or visual element in his work is realistic, poetic, catastrophic or simply humorous.
The exhibition brings together over two hundred drawings and paintings plus a number of sculptures. Works both large and small, featuring images that leave an indelible impression.
A.R. Penck - How It Works has been produced in collaboration with Galerie Michael Werner. A catalogue in English and German, published by Walther König, will accompany the exhibition.