So we were in Tate Modern this morning…yes…looking at the Polke show. I really must try and tear myself away from shows by German painters for a while (just before Christmas the Kiefer, a few days back Baselitz)…thank goodness there’s another New York trip coming up with a big show of USA painters at MOMA. All that said the Polke show was an absolute belter.
I think he’s a real painter’s painter. It’s that fascinating combination of obsession with both images and materials & processes. I’ve always flirted with figurative imagery at the very margins of my artistic activity and more often than not let the photographic sit alongside or quite apart from the painterly. Perhaps thats the reason I love his work so much- how he mashes it all up – that and the utter chaos of it. The catalogue points up the fact that Sigmar mainly kept his other artistic enthusiasms, the films, collage, photos – apart from the paintings during his lifetime but now you see the full crazy intensity of it all. Unlike most of his near compatriots (Richter, Kiefer, Baselitz and so on) Sigmar was a ‘silly’ (in the very best sense of it) man who couldn’t stop himself making serious pictures…in my post back in November I was thinking that certainly in the past twenty years or so Kiefer for example has been aserious man making silly pictures (and not in a good sense!). What Polke just kept on doing too was experimenting and pushing himself and his art making into new places, using new combinations and images, riffing off old material, playing with fresh material, just going ‘out there’ constantly and giving it a go. One never gets a whiff of repetition of tropes for commercial gain. If you haven’t got to see this one I’d say get there and soak it up…you won’t regret it.