Günter Brus is one of the most radical representatives of Vienna Actionism/”Wiener Aktionismus”. While Brus caused a stir with actions in the 1960ies, he turned towards drawing in the early 1970ies.
Brus was born in Styria and graduated from the School for Applied Arts/“Kunstgewerbeschule” in Graz and moved 1956 to Vienna, where he met Alfons Schilling, who became his closest friend for the next years. Impressed by German Expressionism and by artists like e. g. Emilio Vedova, he started with a radically gestural style of painting in autumn 1960 that broke the picture format. 1964 Brus carried out his first action and released himself thereby totally from informal painting.
1966 Brus and Muehl had the idea for a total-action to combine the material-action of Muehl with Brus’ self-mutilations. A first sample was presented at the ‚Destruction in Art Symposium’ in London.
Günter Brus took part in Documenta 5 in Kassel 1972, Documenta 6 (1977) and Documenta 7 (1982).
Brus accompanied his actionist oeuvre with drawings and paintings from the beginning. From 1970 on he developed new possibilities for a combination of literature and visual arts, first time with the portfolio “Irrwisch”. Brus named these works “Bild-Dichtungen” – picture-poems, and they mark a new phase in Brus’ oeuvre that brought forth the rich graphic and literary work of the 1970ies and 1980ies. For his life-work he was honoured with the big Austrian State Prize for visual arts/“Große Österreichische Staatspreis für Bildende Kunst” in 1996.
Radicalness, drama, excess and unwillingness to compromise, mark Brus’ actionist work as well as his graphic work. As a synthesis of literature and painting the picture-poems mark an independent phase in Brus’ work. Here two diverse media, text and painting merge into an autonomous media, the picture-poems.