Artist Katharina Grosse is the Gagosian guest of honour at the FIAC this 2018 : For her solo show, Grosse created an in situ sculptural installation, entitled “Ingres Wood” — echoing the one shown at Villa Medici this Spring — and will present a series of new paintings on paper. For Katharina Grosse, paint is the medium through which to compress reality. Using a spray gun, she diffuses explosive colour across space itself, documenting thought and gesture in complex layers.
I’m not a woman painter. I’m a painter – KG
In the special exhibition for FIAC 2018, the perceptual possibilities of Grosse’s painting are made evident in vastly different surfaces and textures—works of paper, tree trunks, and fabric.
Did you get the idea for this piece, the “Ingres Wood”, at Villa Medicis?
We were preparing a show with Tatiana Trouvé, and I could not find a surface where I could work, everything is historically preserved. Then we went through the garden, and there was a large tree that they cut down, and they told me that Ingres planted it in order to frame an ancient statue of Dea Roma, when he was director at Villa Medici Ingres’s own work does not matter here specifically, but he is the magic ingredient.
Also painting has been on wood for a long time, and carved sculptures were painted. I’m very interested in the relationship between sculptural surfaces and painted surfaces. They are very different, and they change one another so much. Also, you see that my piece is made of wood and it is heavy, it looks light and airy. It seems like it is floating and that is what I was interested in.
So I made a piece for the show at Villa Medicis with Tatiana Trouvé, but there was still some wood left, and so these here are from this amazing trunk.
What is the relationship between you and Ingres?
His use of scale in relation to the body. As you change the perspective on what you see, all of a sudden an arm can be very long or a finger can be very short, or you experience your body as a different thing as you look at another body. And I think this relationship of painting to the body is a very fascinating one because you develop a different empathy to the image when it is related strongly related to the body. Now we have all the images on a screen, and it is a very homogeneous surface, all my emphasis is very different and therefore I kind of actualise that problem of how an image relates to the body. As Ingres did for his time, I do for my time, and I come to a different result. Although, we come from the same field.
Your work is very theatrical, and space is always a component, so how did you think of this piece “Ingres Wood” within the Grand Palais?
First of all, it is daylight, so you do have the feeling of being outside, so you can see a little bit of the clouds, how the weather is like, and that is an incredible circumstance. It is like a park, and because of the special situation in the fair, there are many people coming. It is not very clear what they want to see. They want to be surprised. There is a lot of openness. To do this installation here took courage from everybody who works with me, the gallery and my team. The fair is very theatrical in itself as well; it appears only for 5 days, and it disappears. I like this lifespan – it is a bit like a happening.
Colours are a very important element in your practice: how did you use the colours?
All the colours are essential. Altogether they form an idea. I don’t play an orange against a blue necessarily, but I think all the colours together make a stream of energy, almost colourless in a sense. Also, the colours behave differently on the cloth and on the tree which I found very interesting. The entanglement of the fabric and the entanglement of the trees have a different status of energy and appearance, different thoughts of reality actually come together here.
The colour is changing all the time. As you walk around you, think you know what it is. It is a tree piled up, but actually, it looks very different from side to side, you find different chromatic spectrums.
You can also handle the cloth in very different ways. It is actually very long, and you can unfold it so it can be adapted to whatever you want to show. Here on the booth, we have twisted it, but you can make it (the fabric) substantial and make the tree look very small.
How do you respond to those who say that women can’t paint? And you know to whom I am referring…
I’m not a woman painter. I’m a painter.
It is just 100 years ago that women were allowed to vote or to study or let alone be a teacher or a professor, so it is in all the fields of our society. It is a very, as we all know, unbalanced life for women with not as many possibilities as men had. It has changed in the past years 60 years radically. So it will keep changing, not only in relation to women but also in relation to all other groups that we try to section off into their own field. It is an exciting time for the whole of society.
I see myself as a painter who has access to all the knowledge that painting offers, with the responsibility of inventing and actualising the thoughts: What can painting be in our lives? How can it appear in our society? How can a painted image be part of our vast, vast resource of imageries that we have on our cellphone? I think that a painted image is a very different resource, we can trace it back to the maker, you know who made it, it can’t be manipulated and folded with other information … and it also reminds us of the fact that the more we give up individuality and meld into a group the easier it is to manipulate us as a society. It is good to have a powerful statement by an individual, to raise the voice and to say “this is what I think”.