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 modest Sydney studio on the top floor of an apartment block in Darlinghurst opposite the National Art School. He lived there with his soulmate, Jenny Christmann (b. 1929, Düsseldorf, d. 2005, Sydney). Gunter - the artist, the Berliner, the bohemian - was a fixture of the surrounding streets and cafes and well-known to NAS students and the broader local community. 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. Installation images of the Heide exhibition can be seen on The Commercial's website. 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.
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 shuffle-boxes and float-tanks, simple 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 around where he lived - 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 extensive holdings in the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (over sixty works). International collections include the Berlinische Gallerie, Berlin, H.R.M. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands’ Collection and the British Museum, London.
Gunter Christmann's first solo exhibition at The Commercial Gallery was in March 2013. Gunter Christmann, 2014 was his second solo exhibition with the gallery. The exhibition consisted of six new paintings – a selection from a larger group – created in the year before he died.
The Commercial continues to represent the Estate of Gunter Christmann in collaboration with Niagara Galleries, Melbourne.