More than any artist of our time, Polke has embraced the endless potential of materials and made them work in ways that were previously unheard of. In his early work from the 1960s Polke had already been interested in unorthodox materials such as printed fabrics, but it was only after his decade-long break from painting in the 1970s that he fully embraced a new approach to the application of materials. Rather than determining the application of the paint, Polke started to use chance as a key element in the composition of his works, letting the materials’ natural motion dictate the outcome of the work: “Polke allowed materials to determine the process rather than the other way around, a strategy that can be seen as a means of removing subjectivity or the authorial power of the artist from the act of painting” (Mark Godfrey in: Exh. Cat., New York, The Museum of Modern Art, (and travelling), Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963-2010, 2014, p. 134).
By letting the paint and pigments freely flow his works, creating mesmerising patterns with materials and gravity as compositional tools, Polke developed a method of painting that effectively removed the artist’s subjectivity from his work. Untitled perfectly captures Polke’s exploratory spirit, with luscious washes of paint dripping down from the dramatic black background. The artist’s characteristic use of dispersion paint, which changes appearance based on the perspective of the viewer and goes from bright blue to a deep purple, further emphasises his interest in undermining fixed compositional elements through the use of unorthodox materials.
As a powerful example of Sigmar Polke’s mystifying material and pictorial strategies, Untitled embodies some of the artist’s greatest accomplishments. His innovative approach and relentless experimentation with material and image have made him one of the most influential artists of the last century - indeed earning him the reputation as the Great Alchemist of contemporary art.
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