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

Dreiteiliges Genähtes (Three-Piece Sewn)

Details
Sigmar Polke (1941-2010)
Dreiteiliges Genähtes (Three-Piece Sewn)
signed with the artist’s initials and dated ‘S.P.88’ (on the reverse); signed and dated ‘S. POLKE. 88’ (on the stretcher)
artificial resin and dry pigment on fabric
118 ¼ x 88 ¼in. (301 x 224cm.)
Executed in 1988
Provenance
Galerie Schmela, Dusseldorf.
Private Collection, Switzerland (on long term loan to the Saarland Museum Dauerleihgabe).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Literature
E-G. Güse (ed.), Sigmar Polke, Saarbrücken 1990 (illustrated on the front cover in colour; illustrated, pp. 4 and 11).
Exhibited
Paris, Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Sigmar Polke, 1988.
Special Notice

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Post Lot Text
We are most grateful to Mr. Michael Trier for the information he has kindly provided.

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Katharine Arnold
Katharine Arnold

Lot Essay

‘[Polke] questions the very idea of a painting as a layer of pigment on canvas, either as a perspectival “window” on a represented visual reality, or as an abstract patterning of colour and form. I do not feel that he does this out of any simple subversive desire to reject or discard earlier visual forms – indeed, one of the delights of his work is its constant dialogue with the past, from medieval Germany to 18th-century France, from Constructivism to Matisse. He is an explorer and a discoverer, eclectic and inclusive’
–A. S. Byatt


Previously on long-term loan to the Saarland Museum, Saarbrücken, Dreiteiliges Genähtes (Three-Piece Sewn) (1988) is a monumental and mesmerising abstraction by Sigmar Polke. The work, which towers three metres in height, in fact consists of four pieces of translucent fabric sewn together: a large, bifurcated central zone is framed by a bar of lilac to the right, and a strip of leopard-print at the upper edge. Across this bricolaged surface spill a shimmering, honey-coloured glaze of clear resin, metallic splashes, and clouds of violet dispersion pigment. Branching, bleached-out strokes glow from both sides of the fabric. The work glistens as if just painted, with liquid drips coursing upward against gravity. It is at once reflective and see-through, appearing as window, as screen, as painting, and – with stretcher bars brazenly visible beneath the fabric – as an insistently material object. Phantasmal, organic forms emerge from its smoky purples and golden slicks, like imagery taking shape in the chemical bath of a darkroom, or silhouettes forming on photosensitive paper. Throughout his practice, Polke both exposed the illusions of picture-making and revelled in their possibilities for miracle. Among the vast array of modes and materials that he played with, photography was a central fascination: its influence on mixed-media works like Dreiteiliges Genähtes, which echoes transparency and negative, is clear to see. In this sense the work is closely related to Polke’s Apparizione (1992) – a spectacular trio of works now in the Astrup-Fearnley Museet, Oslo – as well as to the earlier Kunststoffsiegel-Bilder (Synthetic Resin Paintings) (1986) that he exhibited in his Golden Lion-winning installation at the 1986 Venice Biennale. Polke named the show ‘Athanor’, after the alchemical furnace of transformation. Apart from these resinous abstract works, which were smeared with lacquer, graphite, silver leaf, silver oxide and powdered pigments, he exhibited a wall impregnated with cobalt(II) chloride – a substance that changes colour according to the environment’s humidity. Dreiteiliges Genähtes displays a similarly mercurial beauty, shifting in the light with mysterious, butterfly-wing iridescence.

The novelist A. S. Byatt has written that Polke ‘uses all sorts of stable and unstable pigments – photographers’ silvers and platinums, raw minerals, water-absorbing paint that changes colour as the day heats up, so that his work is always a dialogue between a temporary order and disorder, or new formal invention breaking through. He is interested in sudden visions in blurred ink or spilled milk, as Constable was interested in clouds and Leonardo in cracks in the walls’ (A. S. Byatt, ‘Polke Dots’, Tate Magazine 7, 1 October 2003). This idea of imagery emerging from abstraction – like faces seen in wallpaper – delighted Polke, who often improvised from amorphous splashes of paint and free-associated figures out of printed patterns, particularly during his heavy period of psychedelic experimentation in the 1970s. The section of leopard-print fabric in Dreiteiliges Genähtes is a relic of his early interest in the visual appeal of bourgeois German home decoration, but it also serves as a vehicle, like his painted raster-dots of the same era, for exploring the interstices between mechanical production and painterly invention. Indeed, leopard-print could be seen as emblematic of Polke’s approach. Kitschily exotic as a printed fabric, in the wild – breaking up outlines and blending in to the shadows of grassland and savannah – a leopard’s spots evolved as a mode of disguise, a magic trick of visual instability.

Like Polke’s celebrated Negativwert (Negative Value) series of 1982 – wherein the same violet pigment, combined with red lead underpainting, flickers from purple to bronze – Dreiteiliges Genähtes’ billowing, opulent hues create a shadow-theatre of wondrous, cosmic complexity. Its optical richness is heightened by the surface’s reflection of light, and the passage of light through that same surface. Apart from its relation to photography, Polke’s fascination with transparency can be traced back to his apprenticeship at a stained-glass workshop in 1959-61; in 2009, the year before his death, he would complete five windows in multicoloured agate at Zurich’s Grossmünster church. Light has always had a spiritual aspect in art, and it is tempting to see the Polke of the 1980s – inspired by his hallucinogenic experiences and seemingly steeped ever more deeply in the mysteries of alchemy and creation – as something of a sorcerer, revealing apparitions in appearances. As Jörg Heiser has observed, however, of Polke’s transparent, lenticular Laterna Magica (1988-96), whose superimposed windows of imagery teem with direct references to alchemy, Polke always stops short of the ultimate breakthrough. ‘Despite its excessive secretiveness, alchemy was intended to yield results helpful in achieving a goal. Polke’s transformations, on the contrary, are held in limbo; there will never be a resolution … If one understands alchemy as a technology (albeit a pre-modern one), he simply does the same thing to it as he does to modern reproduction technologies, which is to divert and mistreat them’ (J. Heiser, ‘Sigmar Polke: Cosmic Rays’, Frieze, October 2007). In Dreiteiliges Genähtes, Polke offers unfathomable, multi-dimensional depths, but also pulls us back to a boldly displayed scaffolding of surface and brushwork: both mystic and materialist, he at once conjures illusion and gleefully undercuts it, leaving a trail of lustrous, delicate and elusive beauty.

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