Katharina Grosse: Prototypes of Imagination review

Art
4 out of 5 stars
Katharina Grosse: Prototypes of Imagination review
© Katharina Grosse and VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2018. Photo Jens Ziehe

German artist Katharina Grosse is best known for her monumental painty interventions: chromatic collisions where colour covers whole walls, buildings, trees, patches of grass, roads, possibly the odd dozing pensioner. She’s not some street-art saddo just territorially pissing paint, though. Her abstractions transform environments, teasing the eye, dramatically refiguring the landscape: they’re like dazzle camouflage done through an Instagram filter.

This gallery show is a bit more restrained, but it’s still pretty epic. The main event is a 20m x 6m painting on loose cloth called ‘Untitled’ (all the works here are called ‘Untitled’, btw, so if you’re thinking of buying one, make sure you point it out carefully). Swooping to the floor like a huge overpulled kitchen roll, big ‘Untitled’ swamps you with colour: your eye struggles to find purchase on its surface, so maybe give up and go with it. Grosse layers her canvases with slashes of pigment, blocking out areas with stencils, letting the paint coagulate into raised berms. It’s exuberant but it’s not a mess, any more than white light broken into a spectrum can be a mess. In the gallery’s side rooms, smaller ‘Untitled’s are like postcards you might take away from a show: aide-mémoires, or evidence of your first-hand experience. The show’s title, ‘Prototypes of Imagination’, suggests that all these works are just samples, that their colours and forms carry on reconfiguring themselves somewhere, platonically off-stage. It’s a great idea, sort of like one of those installations where your presence affects and changes the work, only here employing your brain, not some clunky bit of VR kit. If you’re a fan of summertime park wooziness, the sunshine fractured by trees and/or ingested stimulants, the whole beauty of it all just slightly out of reach, you’ll probably enjoy a dose of Grosse.

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