The distinctive artistic style of Georg Baselitz was defined by a childhood that emerged from a landscape of destruction. He had the idea to create a new image, a new language, a new world - not simply re-build what came before.
His myriad influences have come to define Baselitz's own artistic style in a mish-mash of reinterpretation. He pulls from such a plethora of ideas that, under his careful reconfiguration, become something else entirely - re-contextualised and reimagined pieces of human history.
He was a war baby, born into a world of chaos and destruction during the Second World War. What he takes from the past and reshapes into the future are comments on perception. The body of work he has developed over his career aims to challenge what it is we regard as an item that has cultural and artistic value.
The destruction of WW2 wasn't only physical, but ideological. For German people living after that period, they had an image to contend with. His work is highly regarded as being instrumental in helping fellow national artists of the period come to terms with creative action and self-expression during an era defined by a crisis of national identity and social structure. He explored various artistic styles and movements before finding comfort in the expressionist style, a style that had been denounced by the country's Nazi government.
Settling on this style was the first in a series of essential baby-steps that the artist had to take to move forward from the period. By reviving national symbols he allowed people to enjoy the German-ness of his work, to be proud of their national identity without forsaking their recent history. He saw no reason to be ashamed - the actions of those in the war were no reflection of him.
His favour for traditional German imagery wasn't only a protest against their history, but a firm stance against where the country's future lay. After the war, Germany was rebuilding herself in the image of consumerist and globalist America - Baselitz wasn't prepared to see yet more of his culture eroded by megalomaniacal forces. He was rebranding his motherland.
In his paintings, his Rebels and Heroes are wounded figures with grand titles. Essentially, to read the plaque would be buying into something that the painting doesn't sell - a false image or idea, a false claim - propaganda. The very thing he was fighting against. These figures come from an earlier period in German history when things were more raw and visceral - an idea that had been re-packaged as aspirational bravery and natinalistic perfection.
Since 1969 he has created his paintings upside down - portraits will hang like bats in galleries, developing an awkward relationship between viewer and piece. From the very beginning he has been intent on rejecting the expected cultural norms of the time - the ones that pervaded society and enslaved mass psychology to work subserviently, especially during the war and the subsequent vacuum that was left afterwards. His inverted paintings are the ultimate betrayal of the artistic norms of logical construction.
His attitude is frequently regarded as confrontational and certainly controversial. Statements about certain exhibitions being like the 'Paralympics' and further inflammatory comments about female artists being unable to paint cement his reputation as a maverick and possibly misunderstood member of the art-world. Labelled a 'shock-merchant', the artist is unashamed at his effort to stay in-vogue. After all, if you believe in what you're doing then you will want it to make the maximum possible impact.
His overt use of social, historical and political symbols, flying in the face of his country's at-times horrific history, both as inflictor and sufferer, reimagine the future as he wants it to be, not how he should want it to be. Wildly singular, his work goes beyond content and into form and presentation - factors that make his work continuously intriguing and ever-capable of surprising. 80-years-old this year, he has no intention of slowing down. We should be thankful no only for his back catalogue, but that he's intent on letting us know there's more to come.
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