Acquired from the above by David Teiger in 2001
Dallas, Dallas Museum of Art; London, Tate Modern, Sigmar Polke: History of Everything, Paintings and Drawings, 1998-2003, November 2002 - January 2004, pp. 28-29, illustrated in colour (installation view); and p. 111, illustrated in colour
By the end of the 1990s, Polke’s work had gained a new vitality and pictorial dynamism akin to the radical brilliance of his 1960s paintings. Having given up painting for most of the 1970s in favour of experimenting with other media such as photography and film, he returned to painterly practice with renewed energy in the 1980s and 1990s. Art historian Sean Rainbird commented on these machinations shortly after the present work’s execution: “Polke appears now to delegate ever more processes in his painting, while remaining in ultimate control. His motifs are usually found within the history of art and illustration… They are often readable only as fragments depicting human agency, against the increasingly unstructured grounds on which he has limited the autograph mark by allowing the liquids he applies to find their own final shape” (Sean Rainbird, ‘Seams and Appearances: learning to paint with Sigmar Polke’, in: Exh. Cat., Liverpool, Tate Liverpool, Sigmar Polke, Join the Dots, 1995, p. 22).
Constant throughout these variations in Polke’s artistic methodology is a dedicated interest in the formal and theoretical elements that differentiate abstraction from figuration. While initially this fascination was made manifest through the artist’s appropriation of cultural images, in the late 1980s and early 1990s Polke reversed this approach, suggesting the figurative in the abstract through a sustained enquiry into the reactive possibilities of diverse materials and colour. When Will It All End… exemplifies this thrilling tension between figurative and abstract forms. A black ground covered with a huge swirling net of blue paint is punctured by fanning spokes of flat white, creating an abstract tableau of dramatic impact. On top of this, a preclusive woodland scene shows a pair of figures huddled round a fire; then, resting atop these elements is a raster-dotted Santa hat, accented in brilliant red. The overall composition is immersive, obscure, and dizzying: the effect draws the viewer in through a sense of inert centrifugal force.
Polke produced work of astonishing diversity and versatility throughout his career, forging a painterly language that was utterly unique in its embrace of innovative artistic forms and ideas. His works teasingly defy categorisation, eluding association with conventional art historical movements in favour of an extraordinarily eclectic stylistic language. Transcending the boundaries of traditional painting, Polke moved into fascinatingly unpredictable domains of creative experimentation, whilst imbuing his works with a sense of subtle satire and humour. Polke challenges us to unravel the riddles he presents on canvas, yet does so in a way that ultimately leaves interpretation a matter of personal opinion. Curator Peter Schjeldahl comments on the enigmatic nature of Polke’s oeuvre: “To learn more and more about him, it has sometimes seemed to me, is to know less and less. His art is like Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland rabbit hole, entrance to a realm of spiralling perplexities…” (Peter Schjeldhal, ‘The Daemon and Sigmar Polke’, in: Exh. Cat., San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Sigmar Polke, 1990 -91, p. 17). The present work is similarly multi-faceted. Demonstrating Sigmar Polke’s disruptive painterly style and exemplifying his vast artistic ambition, the present work distils his astounding ability to hover between abstract and figurative modes of depiction.
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