The West-Berlin artist Johannes Grützke (1937) is the first of his peers from free Germany that did not want to belong to the avant-garde from the second half of the last century. He started out as a figurative artist and illustrator. Just like in the Netherlands, the ‘progressive’ artist in the old Federal Republic was regarded as taking a stand, overcoming artistic and disciplinary boundaries. Grützke, however, refused to adapt to modernist mores. ‘Kunst ist nicht modern, Kunst ist immer’, according to Grützke.
Grützke made his breakthrough in 1967 with work in a distinctive modern-realist style, often large in size, meticulous and with attention to detail. From the early eighties they gradually became smaller, freer, more emotional, physical and painful, especially in his self-portraits. The art of painting itself became more and more a form of expression, instead of style or anecdote: ‘Nicht vor dem Malen denken, Malen ist Denken!’ In his own words, he was led by his brush, not vice versa.
As an outsider, Grützke always preferred to remain an observer, albeit of a different kind. His dramatic and burlesque physical theatre on a large scale betrays compassion. His paintings are populated by clumsy men and sturdy women in impossible baroque poses. They are often group portraits, a kind of contemporary historical pieces, whereby the artist himself also walks through the image. All characters play a role in his sketches. He comments on collective neuroses, female power, group pressure and man as a lonely yet ignorant being, who he depicts with amused compassion in all his glorious madness. Grützke has painted very little in recent years due to health reasons.