A.R. Penck (pseudoniem van Ralf Winkler) is geboren te Dresden op 5 oktober 1939. Van 1953 tot 1954 kreeg Ralf Winkler teken- en schilderles bij Jürgen Böttcher en van 1955 tot 1956 vervolgde hij zijn opleiding als leerling-tekenaar bij het DDR-reclamebureau DEWAG. Sedert 1956 heeft hij zich vier maal zonder succes aangemeld bij de Hochschule für Bildende Künste Dresden en de Hochschule für Bildende und Angewandte Künste Berlin (Oost-Berlijn). Although he claimed that the rejection was on political grounds, in reality his talent was considered to be inadequate. After completing his apprenticeship, he successively worked as a stoker, night watchman, postman and cabaret artist. In 1966 Winkler became a candidate member of the artists' union, under the pseudonym A.R. Penck, after the geomorphologist Albrecht Penck. Since 1969 he had increasing problems with the State Security Service (Stasi) of the GDR: Penck's paintings were confiscated and his membership of the artists' union Verein bildender Künstler (VBK) was rejected. In 1971 he joined the Lücke group of artists, which included the artists Peter Herrmann, Harald Gallasch, Wolfgang Opitz and Steffen Kuhnert. From 1973 Winkler worked under the pseudonyms Mike Hammer and T.M. (also known as TM). After completing his military service, after 1974 and especially in 1975, when he received the Will-Grohmann Prize from the Academy of the Künste in West Berlin, control by the Stasi increased. In 1976 he met his West German colleague Jörg Immendorff, with whom he worked the following years. In their work they both campaigned for the abolition of the German-German border and campaigned for dissidents, such as Rudolf Bahro and Robert Havemann. After 1977 Winkler's work, which he also signed with Y from 1976 onwards, was confiscated by the East German customs. In 1979, during a burglary in his studio, several works of art, but also notes, were destroyed, so that his departure from the GDR, which eventually took place on August 3, 1980, became inevitable. He initially lived in Kerpen near Cologne. In 1981 he received the Rembrandt-Preis from the Goethe-Stiftung in Basel. In 1983 Winkler moved to London. In 1984 he was represented with work at the exhibition Von hier aus - Zwei Monate neue deutsche Kunst in Düsseldorf. In 1985 he was awarded the Kunstpreis Aachen. Finally, in 1988 he was appointed professor at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Penck lived and worked in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Dublin and New York. Penck is also said to have worked in Paris. In the 1980s he gained worldwide fame with his paintings, which are based on icons, graffiti and primitive representations. Specific to Penck's art are the drawn puppet figures with penises in erection, cross symbols, skulls and biting dogs. The busy and dynamic-looking drawings are reminiscent of Keith Haring (who, incidentally, got his mustard from Penck) and Basquiat (idem) as well as Aboriginal art. His work, just like Picasso's, exudes ethnology and archaeology. For Penck these shadow figures were symbols for the individual in search of a free society. He was frequently asked for important exhibitions in London and New York. Penck was counted among the "De Nieuwe Wilden", which also included artists such as Georg Baselitz, Rainer Fetting, Jörg Immendorff and Markus Lüpertz. Penck's sculpture and ceramics, although less well known, have the same primitive themes as his paintings and drawings. He often used everyday materials such as wood, bottles, cardboard boxes, cans, masking tape, aluminium foil, wire. The sculptures are coarse assemblages, roughly painted. His artworks are inspired by Paul Klee and Jackson Pollock. The sculptures are sometimes reminiscent of the stone heads of Easter Island and Oceanic art. In the nineties he made ceramic work at Kattrin Kühne of the Droysen Gallery in Berlin. Other artists, such as Lucebert, worked here at the same time. A.R. Penck died in Zurich from the effects of a dragging disease.
Images: A.R. Penck, portrait (source kunstzolder.be); Penck with some of his ceramic pieces (source Prentwerk art & Artbooks); Tpshape ceramic piece (source auction.fr); ceramic plate with selfportrait, 1991 (collection Kröller-Müller Museum); ceramic pitcher (source Ketterer Auctions); plate "Einreise in die DDR (source MutualArt).