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

Farbprobe (Colour Test)

Sigmar Polke (1941-2010)
Farbprobe (Colour Test)
signed and dated 'Sigmar Polke 86' (on the stretcher)
lacquer and pigment on fabric
35 x 27 1/8in. (89 x 69cm.)
Executed in 1986
Galerie Klein, Bad Münstereifel.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1999.
Bad Münstereifel, Galerie Klein, Sigmar Polke: Farbproben - Materialversuche - Probierbilder aud den Jahren 1973-1986, 1999, no. 59 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
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.

Lot Essay

‘I wanted to make a mirror with lacquer where you stand in front of it and see what is behind you. Then you paint what you see behind you onto the picture that is in front of you. The next thing is this: while you’re seeing what’s behind you, you start to have thoughts about what is in front of you that you can’t see. Because the illusion is already there and perfect.’
– Sigmar Polke

‘This unfathomable artist was much more than just another painter. His difficulty is also what is so tantalising. Like many of the unstable, fugitive and light-sensitive pigments he sometimes used, and those layers of brown, resinous murk, as soon as you think you see him clearly, his art takes a turn and eludes you once again. His elusiveness was deliberate, a way to stay free.’
– Adrian Searle

Sigmar Polke’s Farbprobe, 1986, glistens in the light: like a photograph halfway developed, perpetually in a state of becoming, with liquid streaks of dazzling fluorescence. Across a honey-coloured glaze the paint shimmers with metallic splatters and whorls of violet. Out of the sea of colour emerge rapidly sketched-up scene of a mother and her child, framed by a fairy-tale forest. Farbprobe is one of the last examples of the Colour Experiments series that Polke worked on between 1973 and 1986, for which he exploited the effects and chance forms that occurred from his spilled and spattered paint. As the series evolved, the artist began to explore the tension between abstraction and figuration, incorporating hand-painted motifs within chemical miracles subsumed by waves of glorious tonalities.
While working on his Colour Experiments, Polke travelled to Ayers Rock in northern Australia, and the weeks he spent camping and observing the colossal sandstone monolith profoundly transformed his approach to colour. Reflecting later he explained, ‘I started thinking about colour and its treatment… how, for example, Hinduism explains and uses colour, or how Australians use colour… Seeing how colours are made, out of what kind of earth, I couldn’t resist them, but instead of earthy colours, I came up with purple. An entirely abstract affair that you only get in this part of the world, which surprised me’ (S. Polke quoted in ‘Poison Is Effective; Painting is Not: Bice Curiger in Conversation with Sigmar Polke’, Parkett, vol. 26, 1990, p. 19). In Farbprobe, the purple’s lustre is heightened by the interplay of light and shadow, a nod to Polke’s beloved Ayers Rock and to the flux he courted and embraced.
As Farbprobe is both opaque and translucent, it acts as a window revealing both the figures beneath and the stretcher, and exposing the painting’s materiality. Playing with reality and artifice, Polke’s practice is built on layering and superimpositions to call attention to the process behind and the materials employed; he wondered ‘what it might mean for mediums to infiltrate or become one another’ (M. Godfrey, ‘From Moderne Kunst to Entartete Kunst: Polke and Abstraction’, in K. Halbreich, Alibis: Sigmar Polke, 1963-2010, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2014, p. 136). Teeming with currents and swells, Farbprobe is unfathomable. Lusciously chromatic and distinctively material, its surface undulations are both a mirror and a portal, yet it is all an illusion of depth. As if made by forces unobserved by the human eye, Farbprobe is a reach into the mystic, a gleefully immaterial and audacious

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