Strategy: Get Arts. SGA50
Strategy: Get Arts. SGA50 logo

18. Gotthard Graubner’s paintings (Cushion Pictures) and Erwin Heerich’s construction in studio E.25

Astonishing paintings by Graubner and Klapheck adorned the walls while Heerich’s cardboard construction dominated the centre of the paint-bespattered studio.

Gotthard Graubner’s paintings (Cushion Pictures) and Erwin Heerich’s construction in studio E.25. (August 1970). Photo

Gotthard Graubner

Gotthard Graubner (1930-2013) was appointed to teach at the Hamburg Art Academy in 1965, becoming professor of painting there in 1969.

In the 1960s, Graubner mounted picture-size coloured cushions onto his paintings and covered them in Perlon fabric in an attempt to enhance the spatial effect of colour surfaces. These ‘Kissenbilder’ (Cushion Pictures) were first displayed in Alfred Schmela's gallery in Düsseldorf and later shown in Edinburgh at Strategy: Get Arts (1970), in the same studio space (E.25) as a construction by Erwin Heerich and hyper-realist paintings by Konrad Klaphek.

Much later on in 1988, Graubner would be commissioned by the Federal President to create two monumental cushion pictures for the Great Hall of the official residence, Schloss Bellevue.

Konrad Klapheck paintings on walls of an ECA studio with Erwin Heerich’s construction in the foreground (SGA 1970). Photo
Photo © George Oliver, and DACS 2021.

Konrad Klapheck

Konrad Klapheck was born in Düsseldorf in 1935. From 1954 to 1956 he studied painting under Bruno Goller at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, where he was encouraged to develop his interest in figurative painting rather than the Tachisme which prevailed during this time.

In 1955 he painted Typewriter after an obsolete typewriter that he had acquired, with the idea of taking an approach as far departed from Tachisme as possible. This precisely painted but strange and slightly menacing machine picture marked the start of a fascination in creating hyper-realistic representations of everyday objects, such as sewing machines, steam irons, and telephone handsets.

Stylistically his subtly anthropomorphised work seemed to absorb aspects of Neue Sachlichkeit and Surrealism, especially Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, and Max Ernst. And indeed at the end of the 1950s and early 1960s, he made contact with René Magritte, Parisian Surrealists such as André Breton, and various figures of Pop Art.

Duchamp, who was also intrigued by the sublimated eroticism of machines, especially as seen in his various versions of The Chocolate Grinder (1913/1914), seems to have been a particular inspiration.

Klapheck exhibited the following paintings at Strategy: Get Arts:

  1. The Chief (1965);
  2. Voracious Time (1967);
  3. The Divorce (1968);
  4. Forgotten Heroes (1965);
  5. The War (1965).
Gotthard Graubner’s paintings (Cushion Pictures) and Erwin Heerich’s construction in studio E.25. Photo
Photo © George Oliver, George Oliver Archive, National Galleries of Scotland, and DACS 2021.

Erwin Heerich

Erwin Heerich (1922-2004) was born in Kassel, a city that would later become synonymous with the international exhibitions of documenta.

Heerich was one of the older participants in Strategy: Get Arts, born a year later than Joseph Beuys. Like Beuys he was drafted into military service during the Second World War, and when he resumed his artistic studies again in 1945, he attended the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf.

In 1969 he was invited to teach back at his alma mater in Düsseldorf, and remained there as a professor there until 1988. 

Heerich engaged with geometric architectural forms and his work can be seen as sharing the analytical objectives and formal axioms of American minimalism.

From 1959 onwards, he used cardboard as his primary artistic material, which he folded, cut and glued together. He presented ten of these ‘Kartonplastiken’ at the documenta IV in 1968.

For Heerich, unlike bronze, marble, or even wood, cardboard had no specifically aesthetic or historical connotations. He stressed that the material was ‘value-neutral’ and that this quality (or lack of it) was important to him.

At Strategy: Get Arts, the clean geometric minimalism of Heerich’s spatial constructions contrasted somewhat with the messy paint-bespattered floor of a working art college. ECA was not exactly a ‘white cube’ environment.