Artist biography

Austrian performance artist, draughtsman, painter and filmmaker. He studied commercial graphic art at the Akademie für Angewandte Kunst in Vienna between 1957 and 1960. He was called up for military service, after which he found it difficult to return to painting, and by the end of 1962 he had started to concentrate on the act of painting rather than on the finished works themselves. He was persuaded by Otto Muehl to create, with his wife Anni, his first Aktion or performance, Ana, in November 1964. This led to his first self-painting Aktion, Self-painting 1: Painting by Hand, Painting by Head, Painting the Head, performed the following month. With Muehl, Hermann Nitsch and Rudolf Schwarzkogler he was a founder-member of the Aktionismus group, and with Muehl he helped found the Institut für Direkte Kunst in 1966.

In 1966 Brus collaborated with Muehl on a number of performances. After 1967, however, Brus's Aktionen began to push him to further physical and mental extremes as he analysed his own body and its functions. All symbolism was dispensed with as Brus publicly urinated, defecated and cut himself with a razor-blade. He returned to painting, drawing and the production of artists' books. In 1971 he held his first exhibition of drawings at the Galerie Michael Werner in Cologne, while his book Irrwisch (1971) formed a link between the Aktion and the book form by containing the grotesque sexual humour and cathartic intention found in his actions.

Bibliography
Günter Brus: Zeichnungen und Schriften (exh. cat., text J. Gachnang and A. Meifert; Berne, Ksthalle, 1976)
Günter Brus: Bild-Dichtungen (exh. cat. by A. Meifert, London, Whitechapel A.G.; Hamburg, Kstver.; Lucerne, Kstmus.; Graz, Kulthaus; 1980–81)
Augensternstunden (exh. cat., foreword R. H. Fuchs; Eindhoven, Stedel. Van Abbemus., 1984)
H. Amanhauser and D. Ronte: Gunter Brus: Der Überblick (Vienna, 1986)

ANDREW WILSO

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