We are here in Gallery 8 in our new exhibition:
A. R. Penck: I Think in Pictures. This is the first solo museum exhibition of internationally acclaimed German artist A. R. Penck’s work here in the UK since 1984, and it is also the first exhibition ever of his work here in Oxford so that’s really exciting. In the exhibition we focus on his best known motif, the Standart stick man figure, in works from 1970 until 1990. So one of the highlights in our exhibition is this work of course, it’s called Edinburgh (Northern Darkness III), it has all these different codes and
riddles in the painting that you can try to decode. A typical riddle is the two figures
A and B that are approaching each other. A and B is often used in A. R. Penck’s language as a reference to West Germany and East Germany, and the Capitalist World and the Communist Eastern world during the Cold War. In 1987, when this painting was made, there was a lot more contact between A and B, between the West and the East, and so that can be seen as a reference to that. The artist was born in 1939 in Dresden and he grew up in East Germany. He became interested in art at a very young age, he started drawing and painting as a teenager and then applied to the art academy there, but was rejected and he then had to continue working underground basically because you had to follow a particular artistic style, you had to create works of art that would promote their socio-political ideology and that’s something A. R. Penck didn’t want to do. In the 1960s he met Michael Werner, who up until now represents his works, and Michael Werner would smuggle the works over to West Germany, where they were shown as of 1968. A. R. Penck is a pseudonym: the artist was born as Ralf Winkler and he started using a number of different pseudonyms when he began exhibiting his works in West Germany basically so the East German regime wouldn’t know that it was him who was exhibiting his work. A. R. Penck is related to the name of an Ice Age geologist. There is a little hint if you think about researching the Ice Age and the whole political background at the time which was the Cold War.