BLUT + BODEN | gunter christmann

In his final days, local artist Gunter Christmann achieved artistic resolution with the aid of friend and artist Gary Deirmendjian. Just a year later Gary paid homage to this final work, with a site and date specific installation at the National Art School, the central hub of Gunter’s existence in Darlinghurst.

After being diagnosed with lung cancer in July, 2013 Gunter’s practice began to explore the graphic symptoms of his sickness. Observing the unique blood patterns that he coughed up into his serviettes, his interest lay in their dynamic variations of colour density and dilution.   Frustrated by the inability to represent these by pictorial means, conversation between the two artists led to the mutual conclusion of the importance of the notions of “actuality” and the “incidental”, agreeing that the bloodied tissues held a potent symbolic meaning that could not be mimicked or replicated.

Weighed down by increasing sickness, Gunter’s artistic exploration of the self, body and landscape was largely assisted by Gary, who acted as sounding board and facilitator. It was this ongoing artistic relationship that led to the critical incorporation of Gunter’s collection of red ochres into the work.

Collected in Hyde Park, The Domain, Green Park and Darlinghurst the red earth samples, as Gary deduces, “to him represented the blood of the earth and the certain sense of time and place to which he felt he had come to belong.”

In his final weeks Gunter’s artistic clarity of self and place, body and landscape, was marked by the work’s title and statement BLUT & BODEN which translates to BLOOD + EARTH. The work he arrived at materially and conceptually was to be a wall covered by the bloodied tissues on A4s, each coupled with strung ochres.


It was this final work that as a painter Gunter physically incorporated his self into the work, entwining his own blood as a pigment alongside the red ochre from his home in Darlinghurst – a union of self and place.

A year later, November, 2014, marking the anniversary of Gunter’s resolution (and a week prior to his passing), a one-day site and date specific installation was held in the Cell Block of the National Art School, Darlinghurst. The intimate work struck a chord with the public in its personal response to Gunter’s final works and truths, with Gary using Gunter’s final work as source material and inspiration.

Speaking of this moment Gary commented, “At the time I didn’t know what I was promising him in any full sense and Gunter didn’t know what he was agreeing to…it was all founded on a bed of intimate trust.”

The installation conjured the corner of his apartment where much of his work was discussed, and in addition to all the media relating to Gunter’s final work, all the items and furnishings were actually his – salvaged from his apartment soon after his passing in 2013.

Gary responded to this intensive relationship, process and final truths with Gunter, stating his aim “To be suggestive of it through my own work…through my own language and form, in which the actualities of artefact and experience of BLUT & BODEN would serve a source material for an installation that honoured it.”

The close bond formed between Gary and Gunter, as artists and friends resulted in a poignant conclusion of Gunter’s final artistic work realised in a new way by Gary. The site specific installation served as the place of his belonging within Darlinghurst – a response to the resolution of Gunter’s life and final artistic intent.

The intimate installation held great appeal with a wide public audience who gathered alongside close friends at the event. It was this union of two friends, two artistic minds working towards a common goal that resulted in a vivid exploration and resolution of the self, an enduring universal journey that we can all connect to.

Images courtesy gary deirmendjian


  1. victoria
    Posted January 20, 2015 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    It was beautiful and intimate and full of love and place.
    As I left the Art School and looked up to Gunter’s old digs above the doctor’s surgery I teared up. x

  2. Moi
    Posted January 20, 2015 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Salutations from Utah, where here and there, the earth shows blood red signs of its ancient living heart. Kudos to Gary Deirmendjian and his friend Gunter. BLUT & BODEN resonates, strikingly, over distance and time.

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