“As a child, I would play a game with myself where before, I got up, I had to first erase the shadows on the wall. I invented an invisible paintbrush to paint over the shadows on the windowsill or the lamp or whatever was there. It became like an obsession. For me, looking at the world has always been connected to doing something in it, on it, or with it at the same time. Painting facilitates the synchronicity of acting and thinking in the most amazing way because there’s no transmitter between the tools and me. A painting is simply a screen between the producer and the spectator where we can both look at the thought processes residing on the screen from different angles and points in time. It enables me to look at the residue of my thinking”. Katharina Grosse
German artist Katharina Grosse (born 1961) paints monumental tableaux of desire that can be perceived as a sublime act of love towards the space, the architecture, and the viewer. For the National Gallery in Prague, Grosse presents a large-scale, site specific painterly installation which radically redefines painting as a performative and architectural medium in response to the Gallery’s industrial space and late 20s functionalist style. Her “Wunderbild” is an architectural painting, a spatial image which the viewer inhabits with his/her body and mind. The color gains a volume, the flat surface turns sculptural, the pictorial field crosses the limits of the visual. Epic in scale, the immersive installation emulates both a medieval mural and a womb-like cave full of pre-ancient drawings; a post-theatrical chamber of hyper-technisized, intoxicating environments. The painting takes over the site: Grosse’s gesture is an art of becoming a space. “I’m a painter,” the artist confesses, “I’m interested in the space generated by the painted image and how it can appear in any kind of existing field, be it architecture or the mundane situations of everyday life. For me, painting isn’t restricted to a canvas or a wall”. According to Grosse, the painting is an unconstrained act of freedom. Her “Wunderbild” in the National Gallery in Prague is an outburst of pictorial generosity. Registering a gestural moment of an image’s appearance, it perceives painting as a processual practice of extreme resilience and flux, a life itself, a mental and physical preoccupation.
Additionally, Grosse is conceiving an intervention of the threshold between the architecture and the natural environment outside of the Gallery. In both cases, the artist creates an autonomous space, defined by color and form, a post-romantic landscape of a subjectivity and nature in ruins. As such, monumental installations of Katharina Grosse can be situated in-between the American Land Art movement and late 19th century German romanticism. Occupying liminal territories of an interior (institutional space) and an exterior (public space), and often integrating organic materials (trees, rocks, soil, etc.), her often large-scale architectures are hybrids that reach beyond the divide of nature and culture. They create a space of co-habitation between the human and non-human, the organic and non-organic, the natural and the artificial, leading towards a subjective anthropology for a world in an ecological decline.