Thursday, 10 November 2011

Sigmar Polk + Artaud

Sigmar Polk, Artaud: Two Drawings, late 1970's,
mixed mediums on paper, 136 x 239 cm

In 1994 I purchased a book that had a profound effect on the evolution of my painting and drawing.  It was written by Bernice Rose, then a senior curator at MOMA in New York.  Allegories of Modernism: Contemporary Drawing is a publication that documents some of the work of a large number of artists who could be seen as creating drawings in the Modernist/Postmodern idiom.
Its a volume that I find myself returning to time and again. One of the artists featured was Sigmar Polk who created the above drawing.  It was one of those rare times when one views a work of art (unfortunately only in reproduction) that violently grabs one in the gut and refuses to let go.  The reproduction in the book, slightly smaller than the one above, is, in real life, quite massive in size - a very large drawing.    What really drew me to this drawing was the mixture of messiness, fragmentation, primitiveness, appropriation, conventional drawing techniques, and mechanical/gestural mark making.  And the fact that it also referenced Artaud, an artist/writer that I was obsessed with for a very long time, also added to the conceptual depth and quality of the drawing.  This drawing opened up a range of possibilities for the future of my work that was immensely exciting.  

For myself, as someone who was initially trained in the ultra-consevative method of 'tonal realism' (Meldrumism), this book was an epiphany.  Along with Erle Loran's Cezanne's Composition, Kirk Varnedoe's Cy Twombly, and Mark Rosenthal's Anselm Kiefer, and many others.  And, of course, the poetry - George Seferis, Paul Celan, Dylan Thomas, T. S. Eliot, Ingeborg Bachmann, Sylvia Plath, Basho, Lorca, Rilke.