Sigmar Polke (1941-2010)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMAN
Sigmar Polke (1941-2010)

Ohne Titel

Sigmar Polke (1941-2010)
Ohne Titel
signed, dedicated and dated twice 'Sigmar Polke 1994 12.12.94' (on the overlap)
acrylic and interference colour on canvas
35½ x 39 3/8in. (90.2 x 110.2cm.)
Executed in 1994
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 1994.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Lot Essay

'I like the way that the dots in a magnified picture swim and move about. The way that motifs change from recognisable to unrecognisable, the undecided, ambiguous nature of the situation, the way it remains open ... Lots of dots vibrating, resonating, blurring, re-emerging, thoughts of radio signals, radio pictures and television come to mind' (S. Polke quoted in D. Hülsmanns, Kultur des Rasters. Ateliergesprä ch mit dem Maler Sigmar Polke, in Rheinische Post, 10 May 1966).

'I love all dots. With many dots I am married. I want all dots to be happy. The dots are my brothers. I am also a dot. Earlier we used to play together, today everybody goes their own way. We only meet now and again at family gatherings and ask: how are you?' (S. Polke quoted in Sigmar Polke, exh. cat., Hannover, 1966, p. 35).

Presenting a vaguely discernible landscape image hovering on the edge of readability, amidst a dancing sea of black-and-white raster-dots and a cloud-like play of constantly-changing 'interference colour', Ohne Titel (1994) by Sigmar Polke is a dynamic and vibrant work powerfully evoking multiple senses of reality. Making use of the artists trademark Rasterbild technique and light-sensitive opalescent colour paint, the painting is a deliberately ambiguous, a playful and open fusion of abstract, figurative, and modern mechanical means of illustration that appears to constantly change colour, form, and also meaning, according to the light conditions within which it is set.

Among the artists earliest creations, Polke's Rasterbilder form one of the cornerstones of his incredibly varied and eclectic art. Polke's original fascination with the raster-dot as a painterly means of representation derived from his universal interest in the devices and codes by which knowledge and information, particularly pictorial information and imagery, is structured and imparted. His first Rasterbilder (raster-dot-pictures) painted in the 1960s were works that exploited the overt artifice of the raster-dot technique of printing as a way of subverting and bringing into question the apparent truth, validity and purpose of the, then usually media-based, images that they purported to convey. When magnified to a scale on which the dots, like molecules making up the visible cosmos of the pictorial reality of the picture-plane, could be individually discerned, they took on a unique and autonomous character all of their own. Becoming mischievous 'Polke-dots' as he liked to call them, they not only demonstrated the manifest falsity of the image they carried - and the fact that this image was ultimately not real at all but one constructed in the mind of the viewer, but they also became, in their own right, painterly suggestions of another, alternate, abstract reality of their own making.

From his first challenging of the apparent authority of the printed image in this way, Polke subsequently began to deliberately manipulate and extend the raster technique. He magnified the dots and distorted them to create matrix-like patterns that created a dynamic, living, though also abstract, sense of surface. It was a playful and painterly place of hidden pattern and an overall sense of manifest ambiguity, not unlike that of his friend and Capitalist Realist colleague Gerhard Richter's blurring process, that intentionally upset the cohesiveness and discernibility of the original image, and opened it to new and ever wider ways of being understood.

In the 1970s and 1980s Polke compounded this very painterly appropriation of a mechanical technique with a prolonged use of multiple-layered imagery often derived from other printed media and combined these figurative images with random or chance generated splashes and drips using new transparent, transluscent and even moisture and temperature-sensitive paints that changed colour according to the warmth or dampness of the exterior conditions. In 1992, Polke's experiments with such interactive and constantly changing media, culminated in his Laterna Magica (Magic Lantern), a completely staged environment comprising of a series of multi-layered paintings executed on transparent screens that responded to changing light conditions.

This untitled Rasterbild of 1994 is a work that fuses all these elements within the simple and conventional landscape format of a single canvas, and further develops them through the application of a cloud of opalescent, colour-refracting 'interference colour' added to the rasterdot imagery. A commercially available paint incorporating the light reflective mineral Mica, 'interference colour' reflects different metallic looking colours according to the nature of the light that falls upon it. In this way, as the light conditions change, or as the viewer moves around the painting, the Mica reflects differently and the colour-patterns on the painting flicker and change. Echoing the effects established through transparency in his Magic Lantern paintings therefore, Polke has here created an opaque painting whose pictorial reality manifests itself in a constant state of flux.

This sense of multiple realities suggested by the vague and varied painted surface is also compounded by the imagery of the painting. Depicting a vaguely discernible landscape separated into two areas of land and sky in accordance with the proportions of the golden section, the picture appears to present a familiar and conventional landscape format. At its heart is a mysteriously shaped chasm or ship-like form while in the foreground a few vague figures appear to be either looking on or walking away. Polke is reported to have told the owner of the picture that these figures were Don Quixote and Sancho Panza walking away from the scene. The appearance of Don Quixote in such a work is appropriate given that Quixote's own grasp of reality was also famously volatile and constantly shifting. Polke had painted Quixote in this respect using raster dots in 1968 and, as one of the great tragic-comic romantic creations in history, this mad but noble figure of fun is clearly an eminently suitable subject for his work.

With its imagery made unclear by the deliberate enlargement of the raster-dot format, the landscape of this painting is nevertheless rendered clearly enough to evoke a sense of its origins in an historic illustration, engraving or photograph and to be therefore also evocative of the sense of the past and of the grandeur of former epic visions of the world often carried by such media.

It is in this way that the painting asserts itself as a work that both invokes and is reflective of a view of the world as a volatile reality that both manifests itself simultaneously in many different ways and can be seen and experienced through multiple layers of consciousness. Evocative of modern notions of multiple realities, of chaos-theory, Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and the multiverse - all concepts that Polke's art both invoked and flirted with during the late 1980s and early 1990s - his paintings reveal both the limited and confining nature of conventional imagery as well as seemingly illustrating how painting can provide a liberation from such entrapment. As Sean Rainbird pointed out on the occasion of Polke's first exhibition at Tate in 1995, 'Painting, far from being a redundant practice in an era of mechanical, electronic and digital communications is shown by Polke to be a resourceful medium equipped to investigate the complexities of contemporary experience' (S. Rainbird, 'Seams and Appearances', Sigmar Polke: Join the dots, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, Liverpool, 1995, p. 9).

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