0n show for the first time, a series of gouaches by one of Germany's
kookiest painters, SIGMAR POLKE. Words: Helen Monaghan
‘Styles should be changed with the same frequency as one‘s shirt’. Dadaist Francis Picabia was once quoted
as saying. And perhaps this best sums up the work of
one of Germany‘s foremost painters. Sigmar Polke. the subject of a major exhibition at Edinburgh's National Gallery of Modern Art.
Born in East Germany in 1941. Polke moved to Dusseldorf at an early age. going on to study at the
Staatliche Hunstakademie under the guidance of
Joseph Beuys. Gaining notoriety in the 60s and 70s. Polke embraced elements of the pop art movement taking place in America and the UK during that time. Along with artist Gerhard Richter and art dealer Konrad Fischer. in I967 the three launched Germany‘s answer to pop art. which they termed as ‘capitalist realism'. consumer capitalism and social realism. Since that time. Polke has been an influential figure to a younger generation of artists. and to this day. his artistic output remains prolific.
Organised by the Foreign Cultural Relations in Stuttgart. Music Of Unclear Origin is the title given to a series of 40 gouaches created in I996. the first time that such a large number of works have been seen in the UK. And what is interesting when looking at the works is that little has changed since the 60s. In these multi-Iayered paintings. Polke draws from pop art and abstract expressionism with popular culture
76 THE “ST SJan—I8 Jan 2001
'Styles should be changed with the same frequency as one's Shift.’ Francis Picabia
an ironic contradiction of
‘There's always a pecking order' says Dagmar Steffen and straightens up the butter knife (1996) Sigmar Polke
motifs. His use of Benday dots — the coloured dots used in magazines and newspapers — and the style very much attributed to pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. Polke. however. creates his own unique approach. The dots are irregular. of varying sizes. or used as
outlines. with peculiar and intriguing titles. some of
which are less obvious than others.
“Somebody referred to the paintings as being cosmic tasters of his entire output and I think it‘s a very good way of describing them.’ says Philip Long. curator at Edinburgh‘s Dean Gallery. ‘His work is clearly identifiable from the l96()s to the present. but there is this recurring theme throughout and particularly the technique that comes out.
‘Pop art was subversive. but Polke subverted it further.‘ adds Long. ‘He used the style of mass reproduction but made it unclear. In a way. his works are rather ambiguous. whereas Lichtenstein‘s are not.‘
Incorporating many styles into his work is Polke's trademark. so too is a sense of humour. Bringing in a range of subject matter from nursery rhyme characters. childlike drawings which appear to be lifted straight from a Janet And John book. to images of the ideal. happy couple and the nuclear family.
‘He‘s been very influential. and one of these painters that younger artists were very much looking to in the 1980s.‘ says Long. ‘And obviously. it‘s possible to link that in with the stuff that was coming out of Scotland in the mid 8()s.‘
Like the title of the series of gouaches on show. audiences may find meaning to his works too impenetrable. But then this is essentially the very essence of his work.
Sigmar Polke: Music Of Unclear Origin is at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Sat 13 Jan-Sun 18 Mar.
News and views from the world of art
THE SECOND ANNUAL Beck Futures award and exhibition was recently announced by Beck's and the ICA, recognising the work of the UK's most promising artists. Glasgow’s Roderick Buchanan won the award last year. The panel of judges include artist Gary Hume and writer Zadie Smith, with shortlisted artists Shahin Afrassiabi, John Russell and Fabienne Audeoud, Simon Bill, David Burrows, Brian Griffiths, Dan Holdsworth, Gemma Iles, DJ Simpson, Tim Stoner and Clare Woods competing for the £24,000 prize money. The tour starts off at the ICA in London in March, travelling to Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery in June, followed by New York and Newcastle.
A NEW GALLERY opens in the ’gallery land' of Edinburgh's New Town on Saturday 6 January 2001, With a public opening on Sunday. ’Amsterdam', situated at 19 Brandon Terrace is the brainchild of Rentart, a company which rents and sells original modern art to businesses and the general public. This new art house, which promises to be an art work in itself, aims to show abstract, hard-hitting works of art by Scottish and international artists.
GLASGOW'S LIGHTHOUSE IS experiencing major financial difficulties only eighteen months after opening. Scotland's Centre for Architecture, Design and the City, an A-listed, £13m building, has been described as being 'technically insolvent', as the directors identified a shortfall of £300,000 earlier in the financial year. Having already received an extra £93,000 towards running costs from Glasgow City Council, the Lighthouse has requested an emergency grant to secure its future. We await the outcome.
ARTIST EUAN SUTHERLAND's new website commissioned by New Media Scotland IS now on-line. Modem Plagues and the decommissioned past raises issues dealing With the ’decline' into the 21st century. Through of barrage of still and movmg imagery, SOUndS and v0iceovers, the interactive website iwwwmodernplagues net) presents the Viewer With a range of subjects from the last 25 years of the 20th century including the Poll Tax riots and the Gulf War. Sutherland has also produced an accompanying publication (pictured) which is avaiiable free of charge from New Media Scotland, PO, Box 25065, Glasgow, (31 SYP
Q- 3 -. Modern plagues: Sutherland's interactive website