GUNTER CHRISTMANN

Gunter Christmann was an artist's artist (b. 1936, Berlin, d. 2013, Sydney). He made abstract and figurative paintings since the early 1960s soon after he moved to Australia. For thirty-eight years, he worked energetically and experimentally in his Sydney studio. Christmann lived a bohemian life with his artist wife, Jenny Christmann (b. 1929, Düsseldorf, d. 2005, Sydney). He was a fixture of the streets, cafes and community of Sydney's Darlinghurst. A 50-year retrospective of his work presented by Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne in 2014, curated by Lesley Harding, was testament to his greatness as an artist and indicative of the extent, diversity and excellence of his life’s work. An 80-page exhibition catalogue was published to accompany the retrospective with essays by Simon Barney, Lesley Harding and Noela Yuill.
 
Christmann exhibited in key historic exhibitions including The Field at the National Gallery of Victoria (1968), the XI Biennale of Sao Paolo (1971) and the 1st and 4th Biennales of Sydney (1973 and 1982). He exhibited at Central Street, Coventry Gallery, Yuill | Crowley and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery all in Sydney throughout the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s (roughly) respectively. He exhibited for thirty years continuously with Niagara Galleries in Melbourne until his death.

In 2018, Christmann's works were included in the National Gallery of Victoria's restaging of the landmark 1968 exhibitionm,The Field. In 2017, Christmann's paintinhgs featured in Call of the Avant-Garde: Constructivism and Australian Art, curated by Sue Cramer and Lesley Harding at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne.

From the early 1970s, as an extension of or adjunct to painting, Christmann produced sound sculpture, which he named audio–plastik as well as a number of notable photographic-based works in the form of analogue slide carousels. Toward the end of his life, short digital videos incorporated a more explicit temporal dimension into his dry-boxes and water tanks, simple, innovative devices for the creation of composition in painting.

Christmann developed his shuffle-box technique in the early 1970s and it was integral to his paintings of the time. It facilitated, within the given frame, the arrangement and rearrangement of debris picked-up from the streets - the “ever-present, never-ending treasure, there underneath my feet.” That the universe offered up all that was needed for subject matter, arrangement and framing was fundamental to his approach to painting and was continuous with the idea that each canvas was its own complete and contained universe. This philosophy was most clearly expressed in his short text, ‘TERRA SUBPEDE (The Earth underfoot)’ (1980). He returned to this method of making paintings in the last ten years.

Christmann’s work is in the major state and public collections in Australia including: Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth; Benalla Art Gallery, Benalla, Victoria; Bendigo Art Gallery, Bendigo, Victoria; Curtin University Art Collection, Perth; Department of Education and Training Victoria, Melbourne: Geelong Gallery, Geelong, Victoria; Hamilton Gallery,  Hamilton, Victoria; Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne; High Court of Australia, Canberra; Holmes à Court Collection, Western Australia; La Trobe University Art Collection, Melbourne; McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery, Langwarrin, Victoria; Monash University Collection, Melbourne; Myer Collection, Melbourne; National Bank of Australia; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (over sixty works); National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; New England Regional Art Gallery, Armidale, New South Wales; Parliament House, Canberra; Philip Morris Collection, Melbourne; Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane; Riddoch Art Gallery, Mount Gambier, South Australia; Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart; University of Melbourne, Melbourne; University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales; Victor and Loti Smorgon Collection, Melbourne; Wollongong Art Gallery, Wollongong, New South Wales. International collections include: Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland; Berlinische Gallerie, Berlin; British Museum, London; DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service), Berlin; H.R.M. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands’ Collection, Amsterdam; Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade; Sylvester Stallone Collection, USA.

The Commercial continues to represent the Estate of Gunter Christmann in association with Niagara Galleries, Melbourne.

 

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