'Like Mantegna, who constructs the human figure starting from the bottom up, as one builds a house. The importance of the feet, the base and the foundation, is also key in others, such as Giacometti or Hodler. All of them start from the bottom up, the opposite of what is taught in the academies. This is the way to construct.' (E. Chillida, quoted in Homage to Chillida, exh. cat., Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, 2006, p. 42).
Executed by Georg Baselitz in 2001, Linker Fuß (Left Foot) pays tribute to Eduardo Chillida with an emphatic and vivid rendition of one of the German artist's most significant motifs. A disembodied, inverted foot is at the heart of the composition, large and bold against a vividly gestural white and green background. Thinly dispersed flecks of black paint animate the entire image, echoing the activity of the brush strokes and elucidating the structure of the foot. Deeply symbolic, Linker Fuß is intended as a counterpoint to Eduardo Chillida's elegant drawings of hands, and to the physical act of making that is central to both artists' work. As evident in the expressive execution of this present work, touch, craft, and gesture are unequivocally expressed throughout both Chillida and Baselitz's oeuvres, ranging across sculpture, painting, printmaking and drawing, and time.
The image of the foot has always been important to Baselitz: 'Feet ground me' he has said. 'Receiving through being grounded works much better for me that through an antenna' (G. Baselitz quoted in Baselitz, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2007, p. 28). In recent years Baselitz has begun to revisit series of paintings that he completed over forty years ago, executing his distinct semiotics in a freer and more daring manner. Indeed, the motif of the inverted foot relates to the P.D. Foot series, a powerful body of work dating from 1963; grand, painterly depictions of fleshy bodily fragments that, like Linker Fuß, construct a recognisable image while deliberately disrupting and confusing our visual preconceptions. He is unconcerned with providing a realistic representation, rather, in providing only a fragment of a body, Baselitz is emphasizing the fact that brushstrokes make and deconstruct an image at the same time. Chillida found great meaning with this idea of creation, and the significance of the foot as an emblem. 'The great constructors in the world of the visual arts give capital important to the feet', the Basque sculptor has said. 'Like Mantegna, who constructs the human figure starting from the bottom up, as one builds a house. The importance of the feet, the base and the foundation, is also key in others, such as Giacometti or Hodler. All of them start from the bottom up, the opposite of what is taught in the academies. This is the way to construct.' (E. Chillida, quoted in Homage to Chillida, exh. cat., Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, 2006, p. 42).
The inversion of the foot is an extension of this impetus - Baselitz first made the decision to create work using upside-down imagery in 1969 as a way of disrupting our visual expectations and focusing our attention on the painting as an object in itself. Since the 1990s the artist has increasingly worked by setting the painting on the studio floor, which allows him a freedom to walk around it and apply paint from any angle or orientation. It adds a further dimension of intimacy with the work; the artist must bend in close to apply lines and colours, he can walk over the canvas, touch it simultaneously with both hands and feet, and even apply the paint directly with his shoes. The animated brush strokes highlight the performance that lies behind an art work, encouraging the viewer to appreciate Linker Fuß for its essential pictorial qualities and the intuitive process of construction that is inherent to it.