In the lead-up to Katharina Grosse's solo exhibition at Galerie nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder in Vienna (Wolke in Form eines Schwertes [Cloud in the form of a sword], 10 April–29 May 2021), Deniz Pekerman, the gallery's director, reflects on the key developments of the artist's practice in his time as her studio manager.
Public interest in Grosse's work has soared over the years, with her show-stopping installations presented at institutions around the world. Do you feel Grosse has contributed towards a renewed interest in painting? What new directions in painting are reflected in her work?
Her painting, which transgresses existing boundaries and can also extend across expanses of space, has not only pointed to new paths and directions within painting, but has also, I believe, increased public interest in painting as such.
Grosse's idea that painting can appear everywhere and anywhere is an important one, and one that opens up major opportunities and freedoms.
What key developments did you witness during your time managing the artist's studio, from her initial paintings dealing with single planes of colour, to what is now an expanded practice?
In the first half-decade of the new millennium I was Katharina Grosse's studio manager. In those years, the artist's work and also the very structure of her studio began to change markedly.
During my time there, the site-specific works increased vastly in number. In the process, they developed from monochrome or duochrome paintings within a room space into extensive, large-area polychrome paintings that breached and overstepped not only architectural limits but also artefacts such as bookcases and beds or further objects and fixtures.
Equally, the images and their layering became denser and more complex and demanded a greater input and exertion.
During my years in her studio, there were up to 12 or 13 site-specific paintings realised in exhibitions all around the world. Through the resultant need to work both in other locations and in the studio, the structure of work had to change and expand.
It is certainly one of Katharina's greatest strengths and talents that she is forever reconsidering and altering existing parameters. And yet this bears no comparison with the structures that are required nowadays to realise such an oeuvre.
Did the opening of her larger, tailor-made studio in 2007 contribute to this expanded practice? How has the production process developed?
This is a question that you should ask Katharina Grosse, actually. But it was certainly the case that the new studio emerged out of the confluence of existing needs and the search for new possibilities.
After the move had been made, it became clear that some sculptural works could not be realised in the new space, with the result that, from time to time, yet further studios had to be rented.
The exhibition in Vienna will present new paintings by the artist. What new directions is the artist taking with these?
Katharina's exhibition in Vienna is her sixth in our gallery and presents paintings on canvas created over the past year in New Zealand.
The focus of the exhibition is on a new group of pictures into which branches and twigs, or pieces of driftwood, have been incorporated.
These works are a magnificent coming together of her studio working and her site-specific praxis. Hitherto, the paintings on canvas had not been conjoined with any objects. Katharina's pictures had already, in some cases, formed integral parts of larger room-commanding works, and some of them had subsequently been extracted from these contexts.
Sand and earth were materials that had remained on the pictorial surfaces as flat residues. In the present case, however, the branches and twigs are mounted on the support surface, giving the mere canvas a further level.
The canvas takes on volume. This volume, however, is not an enclosed surface but has a delicate, filigree structure. At the same time, the combination of the painting with objects from the world of nature gives the works great poetic power.
In conversation with Ocula Magazine, Grosse has explained that she wants 'the viewer to be so disturbed—positively or negatively—that they develop the wish to change something. I want to stimulate radical empathy.'
What importance will the experience of Grosse's paintings have as we move out of months of lockdowns?
I can well understand what she means. Since Katharina neither visualises nor inscribes any boundaries or hierarchies for her paintings, the works have a major impact on the beholder.
From the tiniest particle to the most sweeping expanse, the beholder is continually called upon to reconsider and question their standpoint and perception anew. This situation of having to assess what one has seen anew with every movement made or every glance ventured is both a challenge and a stimulus to the viewer.
Katharina Grosse's exhibition in the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin was for certain one of the major exhibition events of last year and one that really drew an enthusiastic and excited response from those who attended.—[O]
Main image: Exhibition view: Katharina Grosse: It Wasn't Us, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (14 June–10 January 2021). Courtesy König Galerie / Gagosian / Galerie nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie. © Katharina Grosse / VGBild-Kunst, Bonn 2020. Photo: Jens Ziehe.