Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction


Sigmar Polke
1941 - 2010
signed and dated 2000
dispersion and gouache on paper
196.5 by 148cm.; 77 3/8 by 58 1/4 in.
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Private Collection, Europe (acquired directly from the artist)

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2011

Catalogue Note


Enigma, simultaneity, uncertainty, and a sense of flux – these are the central facets of Sigmar Polke’s art; direct reflections of his unique take on the impenetrable mysteries of reality are palpable influences on the creation of the present work. Untitled is a vast work on paper that is entirely abstract, deliberately ambiguous, and overtly gestural. In its exuberant forms and bright colours it exhibits a sense of creative verve that is typical of the artist’s otherwise eclectic oeuvre.

The work is characterised by lace-like swirling forms of red and black that appear to have been dripped and whipped onto the canvas in eddying tendrils of varying width. These are layered atop of blocks and bars of chalky white and lyrical washes of turquoise, yellow, pink and blue. The overall effect is one of overwhelming frenetic dynamism – each layer interlocks with another and they seem to process, recede and merge across the expanse of the giant paper ground. The present work can be held up as a tremendous example of Polke’s diaphanous use of colour, delicate mastery of materials, and alchemical ability to forge a serene sense of chaos.

This superposition of various layered forms exhibited in Untitled is a technique that Polke has employed to great effect throughout his oeuvre. Initially implemented after experimenting with the mind enhancing effects of hallucinogenic drugs, his use of the technique reflects his interest in expanding the possibility of art and depicting several layers of consciousness at the same time. Through this multi-layered system of depiction, Polke attempted to tackle our cognitive sense of visual perception. As John Caldwell has noted, “What Polke has done is to produce paintings that seem to look back at us by changing as we look at them” (John Caldwell quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, San Francisco, Museum of Modern Art, Sigmar Polke, 1990, p. 13).

Untitled speaks of an unknown and unknowable world of chance-generated form, hidden structure, and mystery, as well as of multiple viewpoints, constant change, and the infinitely rich variety of visual phenomena. Through his bravura style, his exploitation of layered effects, and his deployment of an entire arsenal of colour and line effects, Polke unequivocally shows painting, far from being a redundant practice in an era of mechanical, electronic, and digital communications, to be a resourceful medium, equipped to investigate the complexities of contemporary existence. 

Contemporary Art Evening Auction