With FROM THE FOAM’S FUDGED EDGE, KÖNIG SEOUL presents Katharina Grosse’s first solo exhibition in Seoul. On display are her new works on paper made with either watercolor or acrylic paint in which the dynamics of her renowned, installative paintings give way to a quasi-meditative stillness.
At the center of Katharina Grosse’s artistic practice has always been the desire to expand the potential of non-rep-resentational painting and to plunder its collective-historical unconscious. Grosse pursues such critical explorations, regardless of the medium, regardless of the ground on which she paints, with a pronounced opulence of color. She spells out the vocabulary of visual experience with great aplomb, and in so doing, she breaks through the boundaries of the pictorial. Her work impresses upon us the question of what painting, of what a painted image can be.
Public perception of Grosse’s multi-layered oeuvre often focuses on her spectacular large-scale canvas works and her expansive on-site paintings. The new works on paper shown here, measuring either 101 by 67 cm or 120 by 89 cm, reveal another aspect of her continually evolving work. The dramatics of epic pictorial space yields to a more direct communication between artist and spectator, to a more intimate grappling with the means of painting.
The works on paper are created by applying watercolor or highly diluted acrylic paints to the damp painting surface. Her brushstrokes pursue less the goal of drawing than serving to guide the path of the fluid colors, suggestive of dynamic impulses and the need to create channels for the flow. The works are structured by nothing less than what could be called a cartographic desire. As topographies of both accidental and intended signs, individual structures become briefly visible only to disappear and reappear again elsewhere; they are compositions of intuitive color that can take on exhilarating, uplifting, melancholic, and disturbing features likewise. Her detailed painterly space encompasses capillaries and branches, geological-looking waterways or amniotic whirls. One might catch a flash of some primordial slime in them, and often they teeter on the evolutionary threshold between organic and inorganic. They are characterized by something liminal.
While Grosse’s large-format paintings and installations – in their intrepid explorations of painterly space – are aimed at the bodily experience of the viewer, confronting us with a determined phenomenological haptic, the works on paper pursue a different, though no less intense, perceptual strategy. They are unconfined by the theatricality of epic spaces of color; rather, they approach an almost internal staging of color and movement. For the most part, they are produced without stencils or other aids. The gestural mechanics of the spray gun – a painting tool that Grosse almost always employs – is set off by the movements of water, the directed flight of aerosols by the flow of diluted colors with its logic of chance and sign-finding. The immersive experience surrenders to a sustained, almost meditative stillness, from the dynamics of the expansive, overwhelming atmospheres to a concentrated fleetingness. Again and again, the works seem to ask how much clarity we need in order to see order – or if order is meaningful in the first place. Again and again, they confront the viewer with a sense of liberation.
In her works on paper, Grosse finds a new way of asking what painting can still be today. They are like chromatic med-itations whose emotional probing is imparted to the viewers. Perhaps they can be understood as quasi-geological layers – layers of the artistic process, layers of aesthetic experience. They evidence Grosse’s unceasing endeavor to reconfigure her artistic practice.