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  • Provenance

    Gladstone Gallery, Brussels

  • Catalogue Essay

    In the 1980s, the Cologne-based artist Rosemarie Trockel emerged into a German art establishment largely dominated by male painters such Gerhard Richter, Georg Baselitz and Sigmar Polke. Her subversive textile works quickly became a driving force within the evolution of German contemporary art, and she remains one of the most significant female artists on the international art scene today.

    While Trockel works across a variety of media including painting, video, sculpture and drawing, she is best known for her seminal ‘knit paintings’, which she started making in around 1985, and of which Waterfall is a beautiful and recent example. Unlike many of her earlier knit-works, Waterfall confronts the viewer with monochromatic rows of close-knit wool, leading viewer’s eyes in a restless dance trying to find a beginning or an end, or just some reference point. This simplistic format gives the work an almost meditative quality, and recalls the Formalist movement of the 1940s, when Clement Greenberg claimed that artistic value is determined by form and medium. But look closer and the knit’s bland surface is composed of a multitude of tiny interlinked loops, created by a series of controlled, highly repetitive actions; this aspect of her work can be seen as demonstrating Trockel’s interest in the behavioural and psychological patterns that regulate our everyday lives.

    Abandoning the hand-craft involved in traditional painting, Trockel’s ‘knit paintings’ are composed of machine-produced woollen fabric stretched over canvas. Her use of wool as a medium stems from her interest in questions like ‘what constitutes the female?’, ‘does the female cliché still exists when removing the element of the manual process?’, and ‘can craft and material like wool be elevated to art outside its usually negatively and inferiorly charged context?’. This determination to challenge the materials and methods traditionally associated with ‘high art’ places her firmly in the footsteps of Joseph Beuys and Sigmar Polke. Trockel explains it thus: “in the 70s there were a lot of questionable women’s exhibitions, mostly on the theme of house and home. I tried to take wool, which was viewed as a woman’s material, out of this context and to rework it in a neutral process of production” (Rosemarie Trockel in an interview with Isabelle Graw, Artforum International, March 2003). Her wool works are beautiful examples of the tension between historically female attributes like sensuality, warmth and softness and the rational, unsentimental aesthetics of massreproduction, linking her to Pop icons like Andy Warhol.

    It would not do Trockel’s complex work justice, however, to classify her as a feminist artist. An intellectual polymath, her oeuvre is informed by a multitude of references ranging from politics to social patterns to sexuality. By isolating popular commercial motifs, and removing them from their usual context, she leads to deeper philosophical questions, such as asking ‘what is left?’ when we strip away the preconceptions and assumptions of our received consumer culture.

23

Waterfall

2006
wool and wood
296 x 296 cm (116 1/2 x 116 1/2 in)
Signed, titled and dated ‘RT rockel 2006 Waterfall’ on the reverse on the stretcher bar.

Estimate
£200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for £361,250

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

14 February 2013
London