‘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
A trip to the heady highs of Sigmar Polke’s visionary abstract language, this spectacular work fuses an array of the artist’s signature leitmotifs in a glorious marriage of colour, light and shade. A blizzard of Polke’s iconic raster-dots cascade across the foreground of the composition, veiling a network of swirling squiggles and smaller spots. Beneath this net, a luminous mass of purple throbs gently, like some elusive organism of the abyss. Unlike many of Polke’s Rasterbilder, which employ the painted dots as undulating shapers of plastic figuration, Untitled – like other late works – revels in a purely abstract language, playfully experimenting with the interplay between non-descriptive fragments. Here, this relationship is manifested in the juxtaposition of larger dots with their miniscule siblings behind, or else the intricate network of thin lines, flowing alongside a variety of swelling counterparts.
With these compositional features, Polke summarises his career-long fascinations with hallucinatory abstraction. His indulgent deployment of purple, for example, was influenced by his extensive travels to exotic lands of distinctive visual cultures. In 1990, Polke remarked that he had ‘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 parts of the world, which surprised me’ (S. Polke, quoted in ‘Poison is Effective; Painting Is Not: Bice Curiger in Conversation with Sigmar Polke’, in Parkett, no. 26, 1990). This chromatic dalliance acts as an ideal backdrop for Polke’s perceptual games; the colour possesses a psychedelic incandescence, as demonstrated by the hollow block of purple towards the top of Untitled’s composition.
The curtain of white raster-dots has a flat, cartoonish quality against the vortex of pulsating purple matter. These circular marks, painstakingly painted and synonymous with Polke’s work, had became an irresistible obsession of the artist’s. ‘I like the way that the dots in a magnified picture swim and move about’ Polke professed in 1966, ‘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). An important signifier of the visual arts during the twentieth-century, the dot – an integral facet of the most distinctive modernist oeuvres, from Roy Lichtenstein’s benday dots, which formed homages to post-war mass-media, to Yayoi Kusama’s polkas, a ubiquitous feature of her work – became an instrument of remarkable pictorial potential. Polke’s dots were initially used in matrix-like serialities; his Capitalist Realism works subverted contemporary comprehensions regarding mass-culture by challenging collective perceptions of it. In contrast to these optical tricks – where figuration is manifested via the undulating diminution of raster-dots – in Untitled the spots conjure a tapestry of atmosphere by manifesting a seductively immersive abstract reality.