Pour Painting is a compiled series of liquid colored paintings spread onto monochrome backgrounds. Upon entering the first-floor room at Michael Werner, the toxic colors decrypt the experimental world of Sigmar Polke. As a post war artist, he represents, with irony and humor, his vision on large-scale abstract paintings. Green, fuchsia, and blue fluorescent colors occupy the walls of the gallery. The eye jumps from one painting to the other and as the first, second and third ones pass, the mind becomes more and more tempted to delve into the uneven forms and the spatters of liquid, gel and textures. At first, it takes a little time to get accustomed to the conceptual shapes, especially if the exhibition is attended at 11am on a cold January Tuesday morning at least for the paintings in the very first room. This is until a piece stands alone and does what is expected of a Polke artwork: stun, intrigue, and captivate.
The content of one piece in particular is split into two framed canvases sitting next to each other. It is created with harmonious tones of turquoise and grey which are submerged into the dark background.
Polke depicted shapes which are reminiscent of vanities, a skull with hands and a body. The proportion of the abstract brush strokes perfectly fills the canvas and expresses Polke’s genius for experimentation. The composition mutes the mind and lets emotions gravitate to the surface. At this precise moment, the vision of the artist taking his brush and applying paint here and there comes to mind. His talent is spattered across the canvas, translating the notion that harmony can emerge in the midst of chaos. It’s a free spectacle for the ones possessing an imaginative mind.
When the lady at the bottom of the stairs indicates that there’s another room, I cannot help but feel relieved. This introduction was just an appetizer and I’m ready for more. Additionally, from the first-floor window, I glimpsed into a room of black and white paintings which conveyed my curiosity but which I thought belonged to another gallery, or perhaps someone’s living room. The last room confirms what was perceived from the first floor. The combination of dark wooden beams, a central fireplace and four gargoyles looking over the four paintings confer to the space a Notre Dame-esque atmosphere. The gothic décor and the modern paintings create an unsettling, incessant back and forth voyage from 2017 to the 13th century. Four large-scale black and white paintings encircle the perimeter of the room. The hand-painted work invites comparison with X-rays. The shapes are organic and intuitive, depicting what could be microscopic plankton lost in space or hallucinogenic interpretations of real-life objects. It could also be a white calligraphic writing hiding the artist’s thoughts. Throughout the entire exhibition, the feeling of staring at visually captivating descriptions, with the unwanted desire to understand the meaning behind each of them resides. Pour Painting is an enhancement, highlighting one of the many characteristics of art when it comes to defining its missions and values: looking and traveling without moving.
Sigmar Polke at Michael Werner (13 January – 4 March 2017)