1930 Erlbach – 2013 Düsseldorf
Gotthard Graubner’s theme is colour. His art unfolds out of the exploration of its physicality, its pigments, and its suggestive and emotional effects. It was the curiosity about the stubbornness and the very life of colour that made Graubner unwaveringly pursue the path he had set off on over 40 years earlier. He now occupies a firm position in post-1945 German art. With his partially monumental colour-space bodies Graubner pushed the boundaries of painting. He extended their expression into three dimensions.
From 1947 onwards, Graubner received classical academic art education at the Academy of Arts in Berlin and the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts. Within the climate of the early 1950s, when the avant-garde discovered concrete elements of paintings – surface, line, volume, space, and colour – as picture “contents” and began to depict them as autonomous works of art, Graubner worked at first representationally. In 1954, he left the GDR and resumed his studies at the Düsseldorf Academy of Fine Arts. In his watercolours and other paintings, Graubner reflected on the originality of colour, while testing their assigned three-dimensional effect through geometrical forms. Instead of using a paintbrush, he experimented with sponges and tampons, which allowed the artist to better absorb individual layers of paint, enabling these layers to shine through more visibly. At the same time, he discovered that they had their own artistic quality. They became objects of paintings themselves, works of art. He started installing his work tools in the pictures to form picture-sized cushions. The first colour bodies, and later cushion paintings, were created. Later, he started spanning Perlon fabric over them. Between 1968 and 1972, he created his fog spaces. What he wanted to put to the test, following the avant-garde trend, was how a work of art engulfs the entire given space and dematerialises itself at the same time. Around 1970, Graubner found his actual art form: colour-space bodies. The very term suggests the coming together of the immeasurability of colour spaces and the finiteness of physicality. Graubner applied numerous layers of pulp, synthetic fabric, and foam – materials that can absorb paint to a degree that simply wouldn’t be possible on paper – to the canvas. In accordance with the gestural painting style, colour is able to unfold in an optimal way. A meditative element is clearly visible in this process.
From 1965 to 1969, Graubner taught painting at the University of Fine Arts of Hamburg, and from 1976 to 1996 at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, where in 2009 he received an honorary membership. He also curated exhibitions at Museum Island Hombroich. His unusual juxtapositions of ancient Asian art (including that of the Khmer) with modern European art allowed visitors to gain quite new, unscientific insights into the nature of art.