Margaret Hunter: a Jungian Analysis

By Anna Lisa Stone | University of St Andrews | School of Art History

Interview with Margaret Hunter

Interview with Margaret Hunter at her studio on the forested fringe of Berlin, in the former GDR: (Waldsiedlung Gross Glienicke, previous WWII German military camp, later used by the Russians then the GDR Volksarmee, now site of the Atelierhaus Panzerhalle)

9 November 2010

Those present: Margaret Hunter [M], Anna Lisa Stone (interviewer) [AL], and Laura Hindelang (a native German friend) [L].

AL: Talk me through your working method. How do your ideas form?

M: That’s a good question: generally I start with very small brainstorming in sketches. That was the advice from Baselitz when I studied with him: the very first time he saw my work he said that my ideas were confused, and to clarify them I had to draw, draw, draw! And that’s what I did. At the end of the day I realised that many of my handicaps turned to advantages. What I mean is, for example, I could hardly speak any German. I couldn’t communicate verbally and so drawing became my main means of expression. At that time I was faced with many new and different situations and I felt myself sometimes alienated. So these were free expressions of the imagination and they allowed subconscious ideas to surface. Those drawings made during that time could never have been done in Scotland. So there was an advantage in the kind of extreme circumstances I found myself in.
There have been different influences on my working methods. In Berlin it was the idea of starting off with many brainstorming-drawings, so you’re looking for repeated marks and patterns and sometimes you find particular marks or maybe a form that’s important for you. That set my way of working clear. In the Art School in Glasgow I used to over-paint a lot. Continually, one idea on top of another, and I began to get really worried about it. This constant changing was dreadful – the thought that one idea couldn’t even be borne to a conclusion.
But I had a review in the Independent one time, I think it was the first after I graduated, it was written by Geraldine Prince and she described my work as a “visual palimpsest”. It was a revelation to understand that I had really wanted, needed the over-painting, these layers. I realised then how important it was to dig down to what your intuition is trying to tell you and even the idea of building up and scraping back was a metaphor for this. Tapping into the subconscious, allowing ideas to surface, provided complex layers of meaning. This recognition, meant I started to work deliberately in this way, especially in my paintings on wood – more robust than canvas. It was like I needed to build up an ‘impasto’ just to be able to scratch back into it. In these paintings you can see the connection to later sculptures when I used the chainsaw, hacking-in to get under the surface of the wood almost in the same way as I did with the paintings.
When I have an exhibition coming up, I tend now to separate my ideas: initial sketches are developed into small compositional ideas that would become A6 size paintings quite complete within themselves, then I’d decide which ones might be worked up into larger scale paintings. Things obviously alter and change throughout the stages, but not in essence. I’m naturally pretty spontaneous so I try to be rigid about the method, I really have to restrain myself so that at the end of the day I actually have work completed. I was a single mother of two children when I started out…it’s a fact that I wanted, needed to live from my work and so I can be very disciplined. I was lucky enough to have good gallerists: Vanessa Branson, then the Vanessa Devereux Gallery was the first one in London. After study in Berlin, the London critic Mary Rose Beaumont suggested I try Vannessa as one of several galleries for my work. MRB saw similarities in my painting to Paladino [Mimmo Paladino, Italian, b.1948] [3], one of the leading figurative painters of the eighties. If you’re looking for the forerunners of the Glasgow Boys you should also look at Sandro Chia [Italian, b.1946] [1, 2], Paladino, and Enzo Cucchi [Italian, b.1950] [4]. Cucchi, a tremendous artist especially for his small precious ‘ideas’. Very interesting. And Paladino – a fantastic painter.

1. Sandro Chia, Nicht for Richt, 1979

2. Sandro Chia, Three Men on a Raft, (c1975-85)

3. Mimmo Paladino, Untitled, 1984

4. Enzo Cucchi, Musica Ebbra, 1982

AL: How do you decide on the size of a work?

M: In the early days it was a practical decision: what would fit into the big estate car! In those years, my husband and I used to drive around Europe to exhibitions, London, Poland, Spain, Italy. I generally work towards exhibitions, so the size of the work is also often dictated by the size of the gallery, I mean commercial galleries especially. If you’re going to live from your art you have to take the practicalities into consideration as well.
Nowadays when I work on say a group of sculptures everything is mapped out beforehand and I work from my drawings. I definitely change my mindset when I’m working towards paintings or towards a series of sculptures. There’s a distinct difference between the more sparse concentrated forms of the sculptural drawing and those destined to become paintings … then the composition and colour come into it. I’m really disciplined about it: I buy all my materials, prepare the canvases or board; and I’ll work simultaneously on a row of maybe six canvases. I’ll have the ‘idea’ sketches initially to hand, I like to take time, if I was to go off at a tangent then there wouldn’t be any exhibition – at least not with me! It just wouldn’t happen. There’s more freedom during the times in between major exhibitions to play around, then I try new ways of using the paint and I enjoy that. There’s often group shows in large non-commercial spaces on a particular theme, and that allows stretching myself in a different direction than usual.

[Margaret talks about the difference between West and East Germany/Poland and the Solidarity exhibition (Poland, c.1988)]

AL: Are symbols an important part of your work?

M: Yes, absolutely. When I came to Berlin symbols became very important. I began by using animals as symbols, actually. The first one that seemed important to me was the snail – carrying its house on its back. This was pertinent to my situation at the time. I realised very quickly that all that’s really important in life you carry around within you. There I was alone, could hardly communicate, no family around, didn’t know anyone, no friend, no children, I had never been away from them before. So you internalise: there’s no one to respond to or with whom you can reflect your thoughts. It’s interesting, too, that the more I learned the language the animal symbols gradually disappeared.
Another symbol was the hedgehog. And that came about because there was obviously around the borders of Berlin the ... Stacheldraht?

L: Barbed wire?

M: Barbed wire! –the geographical boundary of West Berlin paralleled the awareness of limitations and personal borders in myself … and other people. I began thinking about it in relation to personal borders, and the hedgehog! When I first came to Berlin the women I met tended to be less friendly than the men – who were often interested that I came from Scotland and that I was different from the extremely strong feminist women in Berlin at that time. I mean a lot of the men had a hard time! I often remember the answer to “Do you speak English?” to a woman might be a resounding “NEIN.” But when they noticed how dreadful my German was – I mean I hardly had any – they would start speaking in a pretty good English. Defensive in a way, not wanting to be in a disadvantaged position. So the prickles of the hedgehog came to mind. I showed this as marks around the periphery of my drawn figures later these marks penetrated the border and became part of the figure itself. I suppose the experiences I had started me off on using symbols in my work. Because I do work intuitively, it takes a while: in retrospect, reflecting and analyzing, to figure it out, but I could later see how, why, when and where the symbols came from or how they evolved.

5. Margaret Hunter, Figure with Bonze Cones (The Receiver), 1992, private collection

The ‘trichter’ shape – a cone or a funnel – became very important for me. It went through various stages. But you already see it appear in this painting [Whisper, 1988] [13] long before I even knew anything about the Nuremberger Trichter. The idea of the trichter actually came about when I was in Scotland and had just started making sculptures. I’d carved this little guy here [5], which was like a fetish figure. You can see obviously some influence from Baselitz, a bit of influence from Nigeria, where I spent time as a child, definitely. I called it The Receiver because I was thinking about Africa and how people would lay their hands onto an object like this and all ills would be taken from them – they would be received. And the other idea came from working in a sculpture studio in Glasgow: the little cones, are the pouring cups involved in the bronze making process and cut off of the object at the end of the day. So I managed to get enough of them to screw into the wood surface of the sculpture. There was a kind of connection to the surface cuts around figures I was drawing at the time, a development from the hedgehog idea, and the barbed wire. And I really loved the little bronze funnel shapes, objects in themselves, each one totally individual and a different colour. So this is an aesthetic element at the start - the special attraction to a form or material.

So thinking about these cones or funnels, when I was talking to a German friend in Glasgow I told her that I would love to place a funnel into a small head, and she told me that was the idea of the Nürnberger Trichte. A 16th century concept which began as, “If we only put a funnel in the head of the students then we can just pour knowledge in, save a lot of time …” So it was a joke. Now at this time I was working in the former GDR, the old East, just after the Wall came down, with a couple of sculptors. I began to explore the idea of the funnel going into the head [6]. When it was complete my husband and I were thinking about putting the sculpture on a plinth, but then one of the sculptors pointed out this ‘burning wood’ … what do you call ‘burning wood’ in English?

AL: Kindling?

M: Ach, yes – kindling wood! So anyway my husband provisionally held it together with an old tarred rope. And I thought, “That’s it!” Because the figure is bound, literally bound, to hear something – he is forced to hear something [7]. And it fitted so well with where we were; the stories I was hearing from the sculptor couple about life in the GDR, the struggles and difficulties, and of course the idea of propaganda and so on. That was a really important piece for me.

6. Nürnberger Trichter

7. Margaret Hunter, Nürnberger Trichter, 1992, private collection

AL: Would you say these ideas of prejudice and preconceptions were also relevant to your experiences in Scotland?

M: Yes I think so, absolutely. Especially during those Thatcher years while I was studying, that’s true. But I learned a lot more about politics when I came here [Berlin] with the city split in two at the time; I was suddenly confronted by the violence of politics against the people here. Politics were discussed at length, in the flat where I lived – every evening. This contrasted with the experience I had in Scotland at that time. Ok there was the railing against Thatcher, but also a kind of acceptance. People didn’t discuss politics in quite such a virulent way as here in Germany. That’s partly to do with the system here, with power more distributed, actually set out by the British after the war, so that no one like Hitler could rise to power again. I think the Germans feel that they can make a difference here, also there was always more consensus between the various political parties in German. So suddenly I was confronted with a way of life and freedom in thinking that didn’t even occur to me before.

AL: How did you feel about the images of masculinity being presented by artists like The Glasgow Boys as a kind of ‘Scottish identity’ at that time?

M: There were sensitive painters amongst the Glasgow Boys but I found some of them pretty bombastic. Was that necessary for ‘Scottish Identity’? I don’t think so. It seemed to me that the pathos and macho images were more retrograde. Certainly the eighties was a time of debate about women’s ‘identity’ and I experienced prejudice as a divorced woman on her own with two children, and as a mature student going back into education in those early days of further education; there were financial difficulties, and official intransigence to overcome. As a student I was often excluded from competitions or applying for stipends because of unreasonable age limits. Getting into the Glasgow School of Art was a childhood dream come true, but I had to put a whole lot of extra effort into achieving my goals. Travel from the village where I lived to Glasgow each day was a tiring 90 mile round trip, then leaving the GSA earlier than the others to get back home to two hungry children! But it was a second chance in life and I knew that I had to take my ambitions as far as I could if we were to survive. The four years at the GSA was a wonderful time but it wasn’t enough, I needed a postgraduate year and when I saw the work of Georg Baselitz in Amsterdam on an art school trip and I found out that he was a Professor in the Art School in Berlin, I knew that this was where I had to go. Of course it was easier said than done, there were many hurdles, but I made it.
I suppose what I want to say is that my knowledge is empiric, I’ve lived and experienced what my art’s about, it’s authentic. My themes are universal, duality, identity, the struggle for balance, and they particularly pertain to the situation that has evolved for women over the last twenty-five years. I don’t want to be known as a feminist painter but my major experiences of life have simply been as a woman. I was probably in at the start of a generation of women who became autonomous, who took their life into their own hands. And, I mean being left with the buck or the ball … you have to run with it. Things were different in Berlin I loved the freedom here at that time, to be even extra free as an outsider.

AL: So is personal experience your starting point for a work of art?

8. Margaret Hunter, Drawing, 1992, private collection
M: No, the starting point would more often be a purely aesthetic attraction first the form then the meaning! What attracts my attention could be a coil of copper, just a coil, which would remind me of the spiral from der Schnecke … the snail. When the animal symbols disappeared, I still kept the spiral in the solar plexus of my figures, emphasising der Bauch, the solar plexus as the centre of feeling. Kopf und Bauch is an expression often used in Germany. Perhaps the attraction for me is again the theme of duality between the Reasoning head and the intuitive Solar plexus. [8].

The personal experience aspect is often recognised with hindsight. It takes a time for me to make the connections! Sometimes there is a painting that evolves to become the one where I think, “this is leading to what I really want to say.” So this woman figure here, [9], was actually the start of subtracting the head from the figure and you can still see where her arm used to be – her head was huge! I was unhappy with it – continually repainting trying to get the forms right. Eventually I got so fed up with the problems with it, never getting it right. That’s it, it was like the over-painting early on: I obviously want/need to do it but why? I need to figure out why I want this? Why is this important? What can I do that will say: “OK now you’ve reached a conclusion”? Then I gave her a wedge between her head and her neck. I must have known that this idea still hadn’t arrived and the wedge was an interim solution.

9. Margaret Hunter, Shout, 1992, artist’s collection

10. Margaret Hunter, Two Paths, 1992, artist’s collection

But it did evolve, like this painting here [10] and the head was just about separating completely from the body, later I recognised that this concept had to do with German unification and the situation for many former East people at the time; I have a recurring idea, a path, like thoughts leading the head elsewhere. His feet, represent the physical situation and they’re moving on almost without him, he must go along a path that is set out and life will take him along whether he wants it or not, but his head-thoughts are still hanging on to what he knows; and this is depicted by the kind of rod that attaches him to the ground, to something solid. The symbolic elements come together as a symbiosis for a kind of balance between the psyche and the physical body.

11. Margaret Hunter, Leaning Woman, public collection
Leaning Woman [11]: The separation in the stomach, centre of feeling, was really important to me. My mum died, in her fifties, very suddenly when I first came to Berlin, at the time it felt like losing a limb. It was probably the start of working my figures with parts missing, the neck, an arm, an ear. I wanted to portray the essence of humanity, no superficiality, no clothes, fingers, nails, eyelashes. Like making inner loss visible. I pushed this particular figure over to the side, slightly out of kilter and again I was thinking about the enormous changes that the people from the East, the former GDR had to deal with – the figure was forced to bend to accommodate a new situation because of outside influences; these take the form of a cold metal wedge that becomes absorbed into the figure. The metal contrasts with the warm living qualities of the wood.

Whisper [12]: An early theme that evolved over the years was the double head; there’s the idea of dual identity, which can be an expression of the tension created by contradictory demands. The mask-like faces repeat the concept of my (sometimes) working method of building up a surface in order to scratched back and so exposing what’s underneath. The Trichter, cone form between the heads is where I started to question things – because this cone form, didn’t have any particular meaning for me then. Art historians who have written about my work have mentioned Jung’s idea of universal symbols; and I think it’s probably true that we have within our psyche, forms that are important to us: it could be the sphere, the cone, or spiral. Once I have them in my repertoire I alter them to suit the need that I have at a particular time, to give them different meanings.

12. Margaret Hunter, Whisper, 1988,
public collection

13. Margaret Hunter, Precious Belongings, 1988, public collection

Precious Belongings [13] is very much to do with the things that concerned me at that time, the separation from my children when I came to Berlin to study. I was travelling backwards and forwards between Scotland and Berlin, the small figures are being carried within … the sphere is an internal world and there is direction, the pull of the head … the thoughts.

14. Margaret Hunter,
In Between, 1993, private collection
This picture In Between [14] was a key painting for me … you can see again the directional pull surrounding the head. It was specifically made for a major project in Berlin in the early nineties and involved a series of exhibitions of self-portraits involving artists from East and West. It wasn’t long after the Wall came down, and every successive year brought radical disclosures, political scandals, confusion and questions of identity. It was an ambitious project organised by three former GDR woman curators. The brief was a self-portrait at the time of der Umbruch, the ‘change-over’, that point in time when the Wall came down. I felt that my personal Umbruch happened in the mid 80s when I first came to Berlin: the radical change between my life in a mainly provincial setting to a cosmopolitan city was profound … I mean under those special socio-political and geographical circumstances that was West Berlin. My self-portrait depicts a position between two half-worlds – physically with foot and knee in one place, and thoughts and aspirations being pulled towards another. The barbed wire refers to Berlin.

AL: So would you say that there’s a parallel between the divide of East and West Berlin and the sense of division in your personal life?

M: There’s definitely a parallel, exactly I would say. And I think that made Berlin for me very, very important. I mean in the sixties I saw TV footage showing daring escapes from East to West Berlin but that still didn’t prepare me for the reality of a city split in two. Being confronted with the situation there. The first time I went through to East Berlin was a shock. You knew you were still in the same city but it was like a huge villa that had been half opulently renovated – glitzy – and then going into the dilapidated sometimes derelict East part. The roads were the same width, the style of the old buildings that had survived the war were the same, the roundabouts, the same size. You knew you were in the same villa, the same city, but it was difficult to reconcile the two halves – absolutely cut off from each other and totally different. That made Berlin a really important experience, that kind of duality. Of course this idea of living in between was taking place in my own life split between Scotland and Berlin.

AL: Could In Between also reflect another internal dichotomy at the time, having one foot in art school, or Berlin, the other as a mother?

M: Yes, I suppose all of it really, life’s like that, there’s always juggling different responsibilities. My life and that of my children went through huge changes that resulted in going to the Art School. And this was definitely a second chance. I do really believe that what often seems like a disadvantage can turn into something positive. Sometimes it’s the extreme circumstances that provide the impetus for big change. When things hit rock bottom there is a great liberation in facing that fact, that you have nothing, I mean the material things of life. It’s a relief to loosen your fingers and let go of that little crumb you were desperately trying to hold on to, the old life. It’s a great feeling to let go, to be able to look forward, because then you say, “Right, where do we go from here?” That’s hopeful and gives energy.
A big fear for me later was the thought of life after art school in a small village with two teenage children, little chance of a job, what would there be with no prospects. But you do the best with the given circumstances, I got pretty far at the Art School, and I couldn’t be half-hearted, Berlin had to be the next step, but it was also a jump into the deep end. It was a wrench from my children, who stayed with family during the postgrad time in Berlin. I would say that feeling of conflicting demands … more duality … was a huge concern in my work. But I don’t think your art should provide any therapy … no, when people look at my work in an exhibition, they don’t hear the background, they put their own interpretations onto it, they empathise, or not; find it interesting, or not.
After my second husband died I made these two sculptures [15], which were also in the RSA exhibition [16]. First of all the wood was very special – die Kastanie?

L: Chestnut?

15. Margaret Hunter, sculptures, Atelierhaus Panzerhalle, Gross Glienicke, Germany

M: Ach yes, chestnut. Previously I used to burn and colour the wood of my sculptures, and I liked to make scarification marks on the surface. But that particular series of sculptures became much softer and more feminine.

I sanded and smoothed them down a lot, took away the roughness, I let the beauty of the wood speak for itself. When my husband worked with me, he would make the large blocking out cuts first with a heavy motor-chainsaw. Then I would continue with my electric chain saw or chisels.

But these pieces became so much more feminine without him when you compare them with previous raw and I’d say more powerful sculptures of mine. This was no conscious decision; I wonder whether again I’m talking about what effect life’s situation has on the work? My husband died, my kind of backbone as it were, I was morally dependent on his encouragement and support, and physically for the help with the heavy sculpture works. I think I kind of just went to ground … you know, like if you drop down on your hands and knees so you that you can ‘be small’. There was no heavy cuts and scarification on the surface of these pieces, I think my vulnerability influenced these sculptures and as a consequence they are less robust and there’s more of the feminine in them.

16. Margaret Hunter, Exhibition at the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, 2010

AL: Why do you think the single female figure comes up so often in your work generally?

17. Margaret Hunter, Carrying the Egg, 1990, Public Collection
M: Well, why are there more men in the paintings of the Glasgow Boys work? Again there was no conscious decision about it, maybe it’s because all the ideas filter through me. So although they’re not exactly self-portraits, they’re my views on life in general as informed by experience. The sphere, or oval form was just so important for a long time, and in many paintings; and sometimes it became integrated into the figure. When my daughter was pregnant, there’s a painting with a figure carrying a huge egg on top of its head [17]. And that was definitely when my daughter was pregnant. So it’s not me and it’s not her either, but it’s just saying something about ideas that were topical and important for me at the time.

My choice of mainly working with the single figure was definitely an influence from Baselitz. I found his paintings just so powerful because of that. They were condensed depictions and direct – he wasn’t giving loads of distraction in the background. The power that I think the single figure has was extremely important for me … it is often stylized, reduced to the vital and essential and it’s a carrier or vessel for the idea or meaning I want to convey. It’s the same with African sculptures that I remember from a childhood time spent in Nigeria. I think in that case it has a lot to do with the figure having a purpose and being given importance. That’s what I wanted in my work. Also for me it’s about investment, and I think when I make the sculptures I invest myself physically, my time and my thoughts, and I’m sure that reflects back: it’s not a superficial quickly done thing. I think that that’s a kind of strength, I’m quite tenacious and I tend to stick to what is my thing. It seems impossible for me to get away from the figurative and I think I just have to except it.

AL: Why do you think you’ve had a better reception in Germany than Scotland?

M: Maybe I can be open in my work in Germany in a way that is less acceptable by the general public in Scotland, where there is still more interest in natural subjects painted in a realistic way. I’m talking mainly about the eighties and perhaps things have changed. In my day art education wasn’t taken seriously enough in schools in Scotland; certainly many artists and musicians had to move away from Scotland for recognition. Maybe it’s our Calvinist background, for instance words like sensual or passion – we’ll have none of that thank you! They would probably cause more feet shuffling than anything else. Not in other European countries. Perhaps a public that’s more used to naturalism find my figures uncomfortable … I don’t know … I don’t think that my sculptures suggest something ‘less ‘human’, more so perhaps by conveying and suggesting inner states. In Germany the artist has a status, more than in Scotland. Even well educated Scottish acquaintances tend to wonder why I’m not ‘entertaining’ them! I gave a talk- slide show once to the Glasgow Business Womens’ Club, I’m sure it was a revelation for many to learn just how much ‘business’ there was involved in art and to find out that I was a professional as well. The further away from London you get then it’s difficult to sell art. When I first came to Berlin there was interest in me and curiosity about my work; definitely an openness to art. At the time there were very few Scottish artists living here. In contrast to many West Germans who were still apprehensive about the East after the Fall of the Wall, together with my husband I was one of the first West artists having exhibitions there – in Dresden, Halberstadt, Potsdam, Görlitz; especially at that time, West Germans were seen as arrogant and I was kind of exotic for the people from the former GDR, there was a great interest in Scotland and I was made very welcome.

L: Would you say coming to Berlin as a divorced woman, without children at your hands, people looked at you in a different way?

Here? A divorced woman was nothing unusual, well not to raise an eyebrow ... but not exactly true either, in that my contemporaries here didn’t get married in the first place, it was considered too spießig (bourgeois). This was still a time left over from the radical student movement of the late 60’s 70s when many young Germans rebelled against the values of their parents, the war generation. I was different in that I’d already had my children when I was young, exactly the opposite to most women in my age group here at the time. In the mid eighties the feminist movement was really strong. The women were very assertive, outspoken. But sometimes there were ridiculous rituals, over the top, I remember seeing young women at that time travelling in the underground knitting like mad - as if to say, “Look at us we’re doing the woman’s thing, we’re women!” The sexual freedom of the 70s 80s especially for woman presented a particular dilemma … it was a time when abortion wasn’t unusual but if you’re going to experience all aspects of womanhood then you must have a child before it’s too late, and a short term man was necessary! I found it a strange situation … the fact that almost strangers could be connected over most of their lifetime as the result of a relatively short liaison. This was a situation that I encountered in Berlin at the time … at least I felt confident in that having had my children early I didn’t have to prove anything in that area!

AL: Finally, could you talk me through the painting you did for the East Side Gallery on Berlin Wall, and the recent exhibition of your work at the RSA?

M: For the Berlin Wall I took the idea of my double head, my dichotomy double head, and I laid it on its side because I was thinking about the idea of strange bedfellows, East and West. Again these are mask-like heads, the strong lines between were to depict energy and communication flowing from one to the other. This was the ideal, a balanced equal situation, but for me the reality was about the individual, the people shown along the sides of the main heads: it was very recognised here that there was no equality, and the feeling of many people in the former GDR was that they had been taken over, so you see how the small figures have to contort themselves, to fit into a new situation, a situation that in reality they were not at all prepared for. Also particularly for those West Berliners who’d lived a kind of artificial island life during the years of the Wall, their lives were also radically changed. [18, 19]. About one hundred international artists, from East and West were invited to make a painting on the Wall in the previously forbidden east part of the city, it became known as The East Side Gallery. It was 1990 and the Wall was being dismantled, and sometimes sold off or gifted around the world. We, the artists didn’t expect our part to survive ... but it did – first under a protection order, today it’s designated a memorial and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

18. Margaret Hunter, Joint Venture, the Berlin Wall (East Side Gallery), 1996

19. Margaret Hunter, Joint Venture, the Berlin Wall (East Side Gallery), 2010

I made an almost 1:1 copy (3.5 x 7m) of the Wall painting [20], for an exhibition in Potsdam 2009 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Wall. Over the last twenty years I’ve regularly over-painted the graffiti and this has become a kind of never-ending dialogue between me and the anonymous groups of tourists who want to leave their mark on the Wall to say: ‘I was here’!
At the open-air East Side Gallery graffiti is forbidden and particularly taboo within the esteemed rooms of a gallery. However, in the Potsdam exhibition I presented my ‘restatement’ painting and invited the public to inscribe their comments on it, I was looking for expressions related to German Unification over the last twenty years.
At the beginning of this year I felt really honoured when I was invited to be a guest artist in the annual exhibition at the Royal Scottish Academy. There was particular interest from the exhibition’s curator to show this restatement Wall piece along with a series of sculptures. The Goethe Institute financed the transport and the German Consul came to the preview and I really appreciated the German support. The painting especially received interest and resonance from the public and critics alike and I felt kind of proud to bring my Berlin painting home, back to Scotland.

20. Margaret Hunter, Restatement-Joint Venture, 2010, (RSA Exhibition, Edinburgh, 2010)

End of interview

Copyright photos

© Antonia Reeve Photography, Edinburgh: figs 9, 10, 13, 17
© Anna Lisa Stone: fig 15
© Chris Park Photography, Edinburgh: figs 16, 20
© Margaret Hunter: figs 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 14, 18, 19

Copyright © Anna Lisa Stone 2011