Sigmar Polke: Schüttbilder

30 September - 5 October 2019

Coinciding with Frieze London, Simon Lee Gallery is proud to announce a presentation of ‘Schüttbilder’, or ‘Pour Paintings’ by influential German artist, Sigmar Polke (1941-2010).

Amongst the most significant figures in the artistic landscape of post-war Germany, Polke was renowned for an experimental approach to painting that pushed the boundaries of both medium and material. The pursuit of chance operation and an irreverent wit are hallmarks of a career that staunchly resisted easy categorisation or alignment with any specific movement or genre. While his multidisciplinary practice encompassed innovations across photography, film, print, drawing, sculpture and performance, it was as a painter that he most thoroughly tested aesthetic convention. Polke’s interrogation of the formal and material traditions of paint led to the invention of alchemical processes and a use of unorthodox substances, which created a constant dialogue between order and disorder, chaos and control, all the while addressing the cultural and historical impact of an abstract practice in two dimensions.

The Pour Paintings, a series of chiefly large-format works on paper that occupied the artist for a period of approximately 15 years, encapsulate his late-career hypothesis, in which accidents or chance effects formed the backbone of his practice. Layers of opalescent dispersion pool over matte-black grounds, creating varied chromatic effects liberated from an imitation of nature but that nonetheless evoke otherworldly imagery – vaporous clouds of gas or nebulae. These works capture Polke’s fascination with the authorial process and its relationship to accident and effect. Although autonomous, the Pour Paintings are evidence of their maker’s mastery of chance. Poured, spilled and splattered, the paint coalesces across the picture plane in self-determined rivulets that inspire perspectival shifts in light and space, augmented by the interaction of viscous and powdered pigment. The Pour Paintings constitute Polke’s most sustained critical investigation into abstraction, drawing together the key concerns of a practice fundamentally absorbed in dismantling the language of high-modernism.