‘And as for art history – I tear the pages out of the history books and throw them away!’ (S. Polke, quoted in in K. McKenna, ‘Sigmar Polke’s Layered Look,’ LA Times, 3 December 1995)
Shimmering with imagination, Untitled is a kaleidoscopic work on paper by Sigmar Polke that transposes several key aspects of his variegated practice. Three broad swathes of dots in brown, red and blue – a technique familiar from the artist’s Rasterbilder, which subversively appropriated the raster-dot printing methods of the mass media – form the background. The central zone of the picture is dominated by five carefully inked curlicued forms, which look as if lifted from a handbook of architectural ornaments (Polke’s father, an architect, was descended from artisans who produced decorative ironwork for Baroque churches). Echoing the verticality of these scrolling designs, a line of vivid yellow ink sends drips up the paper, echoing the pictorial inversions of Polke’s East German contemporary Georg Baselitz. Strewn across the whole composition are circular splashes of blue ink, teased by a stroke through their centre into Saturn- or comet-like forms. The cosmic, the historical, the hallucinogenic, the mechanical and the handmade are all brought together, exemplifying Polke’s radical dehierarchisation of the picture plane. A wry vision from Germany’s sharpest compound eye, the work conjures myriad layers of perception, dreamlike strata shifting in and out of focus to electrifying effect.