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Reiner Seliger

white cross, 2010/2011

Sidewalk chalk on wood

160 x 160 x 10 cm

© Artist

Photo: Gerhard Sauer


The large-scale relief white cross by Reiner Seliger, who was born in 1943, achieves its effect by using one sole material: white chalk. This dense all-over consisting of a large number of at times snapped pieces of chalk, placed either on end or side by side, exerts a strong tactile draw and seems like a riven field in the throes of chaotic motion. Yet following on from the initial perception of lawless confusion we see certain formal principles that are characteristic of Seliger’s creative work. Thus the industrially standardised chalks which have been used repetitively, create in toto the form of a square, whose internal structure is dominated by elements arranged in parallel bundles or fanned out in arcs. With that the work does evince a certain order, whose fluid form resembles an undulating corn field. The porous material of the chalks, the gracefully shaped elements, the velvety surface, the white colour and the fringed edges lend the object a fragility that can have a very entrancing effect on the beholder. The technique used in this work – mounting the chalks in criss-cross fashion, which also gave rise to the title white cross – differs from other chalk pieces Seliger has made, in which the individual components are arranged meticulously in rows.


Reiner Seliger has taken a common or garden utility item which many viewers will be familiar with from quite a different context, quite specifically as an implement for drawing or writing at school, and transposed it into a sensual, aesthetic form. Relieved of its original function, the blackboard chalk is presented to us in all its materiality. Its use as a structural element suggests comparisons with Günther Uecker’s nail pieces.


Reiner Seliger’s œuvre generally distinguishes itself by its consistent use of simple, readily available and low priced materials, at times even including industrial leftovers. Apart from chalk, his stock of materials includes bricks, glass shards, expanded polystyrene, Perspex, and concrete. He can draw on this all for pictorial reliefs, architectural sculptures, installations, and works in public space, in which physical presence is constantly united with sensual ornamentalism.


Reiner Seliger

1943 born in Lwówek Śląski, Silesia (today: PL)

Lives and works in Freiburg and Montefioralle (IT)