I pile everything up, all the accumulated material … all the things from my travels … and when the room is filled, I lock it up and move on to an empty one… . I have done this all my life. When I was seven the war broke out and the village I lived in was right on the Russian front. We had to leave immediately and left everything behind. I still remember the drawer of my table with all my things in it: pieces of wood I carved, stones, seeds, a stuffed owl … all left.–Sigmar Polke, 1992
Sigmar Polke has emerged as one of the most important artists of postwar Germany. In 1963, he and other German artists, such as Gerhard Richter, Joseph Beuys, and Konrad Lueg, founded a movement called Capitalist Realism. Its practitioners juxtaposed banal subject matter in a way that made their work seem a parody of American Pop Art (see Polke’s sculpture in Gallery 5). In the mid-1980s, he began exploring the medium of photography, which led to his grand-scale pictures made with intentionally unstable chemicals and his use of transparent painting surfaces.
In this work, Polke combines a mysterious image from a book of 19th-century engravings with an abstract surface. The image is fanciful, almost surreal, perhaps depicting a mother explaining to her children where snow comes from, or the fairylike beings that produce snow. In contrast, the gorgeous abstraction, painted on transparent fabric, suggests clouds, sky, and an almost spiritual emanation of light.
Walker solo exhibition: Sigmar Polke: Illumination, 1995