Jannis Kounellis

Untitled (1960)

About this artwork

Like many artists of his generation, Kounellis merged traditional art forms with new performative elements. This early composition comes from a series of ‘alphabet paintings’ known as 'Alfabeti'. Including overlapping letters and arrows that create dynamic and unpredictable compositions, it takes inspiration from the spontaneous technique of the action painter, Jackson Pollock. Stencilled thickly onto a white background, the arrangement of the letters invokes a rhythm which appears to make the black marks float freely in their surrounding space. As if denoting the emergence of some new primitive language, these signs were also enacted by Kounellis himself in ritualistic performances.

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  • title: Untitled
  • accession number: AR00614
  • artist: Jannis KounellisGreek (born 1936)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Painting
  • date created: 1960
  • measurements: 140.90 x 230.50 x 3.00 cm
  • credit line: ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
  • copyright: © Jannis Kounellis
This artwork is part of Artist Rooms

Jannis Kounellis

Jannis Kounellis

Kounellis considers himself to be “a Greek person but an Italian artist”. Born in Greece, he moved to Italy in 1956 and studied at the ‘Academia di Belle Arti’ in Rome. Following a two year hiatus from painting, in 1967 he surfaced as an influential contributor to the newly emerging ‘Arte Povera’ movement. From this point his art developed as a mixture of painting, sculpture, collage and installation. It is characterised by the unusual combination of physically and culturally opposing materials. This includes soil, stones, sacks, fire, live animals, bed frames and doorways. Through his ambitious works Kounellis challenges the traditional notions of both painting and the gallery space.