Katharina Grosse

Base and Awesome

Conversation between Katharina Grosse, a Birmingham based artist working with acrylic applied with a spray gun and Jonathan Watkins, Director of the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham.

Katharina Grosse Ikon 2002

Katharina Grosse Installation at Ikon, 2002

Watkins came across Katharina Grosse’s work for the first time in 1997. Her work was paper based at this point but later after visiting her studio, it came to his acknowledgement that Grosse was embarking on a bigger challenge. Grosse had started spray painting directly onto walls. In 2002, Ikon Gallery in Birmingham invited the artists to her first show in which the entire space would be hers.

Ikon Gallery is a traditional building with plenty of varied angles forcing Grosse’s work to gain a sculptural quality. Katharina Grosse explains that her work is not planned but the ‘criteria and the ideas would emerge whilst doing the work’ along with the decision of what colours to use. The combination of the structure of the space and the spontaneous nature to the work makes the painting very site specific. Katharina Grosse’s first spray painting was in Switzerland in Kunsthalle Bern, after visiting the space she became “drawn up to the corner of the room” and questioned whether she could spray up there, even though she hadn’t done much spray painting. Previously she had only painted with a brush, limiting the amount of movement within a big space. Katharina says that her first sprays started with one colour, eventually she began to use more colours-

“It was really interesting that when I was spraying, the funny thing that came about was that the wall was covered with paint but at the same time the structure of the wall was revealed. I discovered also that I could connect spaces really easily and move really easily with the spray gun and ignore certain architectural limitations, which I can’t when I show canvas paintings.”

Katharina Grosse’s work is non-figurative and abstract just as the avant-garde artists of the Abstract Expressionists work from the 40’s are. Grosse’s work  is still about something, it is the place and the experience, it is a painting and a sculpture. The finish to the paintings are matt and in places thicker than others often where the paint has dripped, this variation gives the piece greater texture as the wall becomes more visible in thinner area’s “as if you have blown dust against it and that tends to make the wall more visible.” The artist uses bright, fluorescent and metallic paints which sit on the surfaces differently, Grosse explained that this flared from a interest in how others apply paint to the surface, “when you use a paintbrush you actually cover what you paint.” Up until now, the artist has only painted on white surfaces but explains that she views this surface as a painting itself, at the Ikon she had thought about painting the space in a light pink in order to give a different atmosphere that would contrast with its historical features. It is obvious that her colour scheme is a important factor in her work, it is defined by the space, the source of light, the amount of white and also Katharina’s mood at the present time. Initially, the artist was strict on her use of colour, telling herself that once using one colour she couldn’t use it again. However, she was a “little helpless” when at Ikon and painted over things which she considered “wrong”. Katharina started painting on paper and canvas and says that she has been trying to find a way to combine both her smaller and larger works, however its success relies greatly on the space and in most circumstances, the work is stronger when separated.


Katharina Grosse- Two Younger Women Come In And Pull Out a Table, 2013 

acrylic on latex balloons, canvas, fabric, soil and styrofoam / 4600x3300x2700 cm / 245x327x480 cm /Tilburg / interior

2012katharina 2

2012katharina 4

2012katharina 3

Katharina Grosse- Third Man Begins Digging Through Her Pockets, 2012

Acrylic on wall  / 1206x1100x944 cm / Cleveland / interior

Katharina Grosse

Katharina Grosse- Untitled, 2004

Acrylic on wall, floor and various objects / approx. 110 x 177 x 157

Katharina Grosse’s more recent work show a greater exploration with the space itself, ‘Two Younger Woman Come In And Pull Out A Table’ pictured above show a painted form in a blank industrial space. The paint and the circular balls work together to create a new form which when put together in a large quantity challenge size and colour relation. In other works, Grosse has painted onto a familiar space, for example a bedroom (pictured above) or a living room, questioning its relevance in the space, does it work with it or against it? ‘Untitled’ creates a destructive atmosphere due to Grosse’s use of colour that is not as bright as other works. Her decisions on her work rely on the space, in this case the space is messy, unlike the white cube space and this is reflected in the thick application of paint that is heavily dripping and dark in colour. The artists exploration in application creating varied texture is something interesting about her work, spray paint has a matt finish that is smooth. The natural quality to the paint has been highlighted in ‘Two Younger Women Come In And Pull Out a Table, 2013’ and fought against in ‘Untitled, 2004’. Another interesting thing about Katharina Grosse is the placement of her work, ‘Third Man Begins Digging Through Her Pockets, 2012’ pictured above shows the differences of the work visually when views from different angles. The modernist building with glass windows allows the viewer to see the work from outside the space, from this view the piece looses its texture and highlights its colour appearing almost as lights. In other cases, Grosse has placed her work outdoors, away from a ‘typical’ art space, this creates a image of sculpture more so than painting.




Cathy Wilkes

Cathy Wilkes


Cathy Wilkes 


“Milton Keynes Gallery presented the most comprehensive exhibition in the UK by artist Cathy Wilkes. Born and raised in Belfast, Wilkes is one of a generation of artists who was educated in Glasgow and emerged at the forefront of British visual arts practice the mid 1990s. The exhibition, which comprised new and recent work, was accompanied by an illustrated catalogue.

Wilkes’s work is characterised by the creation of a slowly emerging, distinctively personal vocabulary of sculptures and paintings which she makes and re-makes in evolving assemblages and environments. Her processes are measured and refined, drawing on the most intimate of personal experiences to create a compelling autobiographical thread, coupled with a precise and liberated formal language. Wilkes confidently and unapologetically selects the most abject and awkward of domestic, everyday objects; a widescreen Sony television, a Maclaren’s push chair or a jar of Bonne Mamam apricot preserve have all been incorporated in Wilkes’ expansive installations.

Every Sunday throughout the exhibition period,  a DVD of Wilkes’ short film Most Women Never Experience (2005, 4 mins 10 secs) was shown, looped, in the first floor events room.  The film, which commences with a musical prelude of tribalesque drumming, serves as a portrait of house-wifery, one that is suggestive of a more secret life amidst the everyday pace of things, that only reveals itself through the peculiar space-time dynamic that Wilkes creates.”


Hans Bellmer


Jake and Dinos Chapman

Zygotic Acceleration, Biogenetic, De-Sublimated Libidinal Model 1995 Fibreglass 150 x 180 x 140 cm

Cathy Wilkes, nominated for the 2008 Turner Prize Award after her exhibition at the Milton Keynes Gallery (pictured above) using the ‘readymade’, introduced by surrealist Marcel DuChamp. Her work shares issues that are deeply personal to herself, although we are not quite sure what they are. Her installations using a mannequin and other objects representing fragments of episodes in her life are self reflective forms, they speak a visual language and are known as her most striking works.

The use of a inhuman figure has been used previously by avant-garde artists to create a sinister atmosphere. Surrealist Hans Bellmer was fascinated by the female body, he dismantled human size dolls and reassembled them to create a new form. He would then photograph the dolls in a way that creates a sinister atmosphere. Jake and Dinos Chapman create sculptures, prints and installations using, often using multiple figures made from fibreglass. Their works have wit and energy whilst tackling contemporary politics, religion and morality. The sculptures pictured above have genitals replacing their noses, I wonder why this is? There is something particular yet intriguing about the artists that I wish to discover.

I share this idea that there is something quite unnerving about the presence of mannequins, dolls and statues. Whilst Cathy Wilkes work has a sense of beautiful tragedy,  artists Jake and Dinos Chapman and Hans Bellmer use figures in a much darker way. I would like to research these 3 artists in particular more so to get a greater sense of their work and what they are trying to portray. They have a surreality, there is something we are familiar with but doesn’t exist.



Review of ‘What About Sunday?’

This is Tomorrow:

“The definition of artistic activity occurs, first of all, in the field of distribution.”
Marcel Broodthaers *

‘this is tomorrow’ aims to become a comprehensive archive of contemporary art, providing those restricted by place or time with the chance to visit some of the most innovative and culturally significant exhibitions around the world.

We believe that contemporary art has an intrinsic value for society that enriches people’s lives, offering multiple reflections on how we live and how our futures might be constructed.


Milton Keynes Gallery

Milton Keynes Gallery: http://www.mkgallery.org/exhibitions/

18 January – 31 March 2013

Preview: 17 January 2013 / 6pm – 9pm / All welcome 

”This January, MK Gallery presents What about Sunday?, the first UK exhibition by Swiss artists Silvia Bächli (born 1956) and Eric Hattan (born 1955), including drawing, video installation and sculpture. Featuring both individual and collaborative pieces, the exhibition suggests numerous parallels in their work despite their contrasting techniques and approaches.

Silvia Bächli works primarily in drawing and painting on paper and includes around 100 works made over the last 25 years, not previously exhibited. Her drawings are both carefully considered and spontaneous, hinting at fleeting moments or movements, often evoking bodies or landscapes, without ever explicitly stating them. They are playful technically, revelling in the unpredictable encounters of brush, watercolour and paper and the variable effects of density, light and shade. Often assembled in clusters or ensembles, displayed on walls and tables as installations of drawings, the cumulative effect is like large and disparate pieces in an incomplete puzzle.

Hattan’s videos, installations and performances are similarly responsive to his surroundings, selecting and rearranging everyday items and finding beauty and humour in them. Through gentle manipulation, by displacing, folding or turning things inside out or upside down, Hattan directs our attention to overlooked details, to how things are made and to why they are there. Whether uprooting a lamppost, gluing objects to the ceiling or hanging Swiss bells round the necks of a flock of sheep, Hattan’s interruptions and disruptions are the result of a curiosity and a questioning of our environment and conventions.

The exhibition also includes collages made collaboratively over the years from discarded snapshots by Hattan and rejected drawings by Bächli, unlikely pairings and unexpected correspondences humorously brought together like a game of consequences. By bringing these two artists together, the exhibition focuses on their ways of looking, with partial visions, perspectival distortions and, in some cases, optical illusions that continually keep us guessing, reconsidering and simply re-inventing the world around us.

A new permanent public art work by Eric Hattan has been commissioned by MK Gallery with the support of The Parks Trust, Milton Keynes. The work will be located in Campbell Park, a few minutes walk from MK Gallery in the centre of Milton Keynes.

publication accompanies the exhibition, featuring short texts by writers selected by the artists in response to a series of photographs taken by Bächli and Hattan during their research visits to Milton Keynes. Includes texts by Samantha Bohatsch, Edwin Burdis, Chris Fite-Wassilik, Bruce Haines, Juli Kreten, Bera Nordal, Andrew Shields, Harriet Zilch, Nina Zimmer, Emil Sennewald, Markus Stegmann, Jürg Halter, Eva Kuhn, Jonas Storsve, Richard Wentworth and Raoul de Keyser. The publication is designed by Astrid Seme and published by Mark Pezinger Verlag.

The exhibition is generously supported by Pro Helvetia, the Stanley Thomas Johnson Foundation, Swiss Cultural Fund in Britain and the Embassy of Switzerland with additional in kind support from Stagsden Christmas Trees.”

Eric Hatton:


Silvia Baechli:


Poster For The Surrealist Exhibition


The simple red, black and white colour scheme to this poster gives it a wartime feel when remember the war posters, for example those of the Russian Constructivists. The Surrealists were practising surrounded by the war, and therefore effected by it. The work of the Surrealists was described as ‘wartime deaftism’ by Andre Breton (creator of the movement) as their work was strongly influenced by the war. I believe the connection drew between previous war posters and the one above is a intentional association. This same block black on red and white is still used today in modern promotion, for example the brand Obey, pictured below.


Above is the typical Obey image. Their other works are based on political issues which have a immediate link to wartime posters. They are bold, often patterned/highly detailed and are created using a simple but classic colour scheme such as red, black and white. Of course, the use of red highlights danger or passion, questioning which way it is being used to convey a idea. Today, Obey is a global clothing brand started by sticker creator Shepard Fairey. Although mostly known for their clothing, their art is still alive:


”Obey Clothing was founded on the art, design and ideals of Shepard Fairey. What started for Fairey with an absurd sticker he created in 1989 while studying at the Rhode Island School of Design has since envolved into a worldwide street art campaign, as well as an acclaimed body of fine art.

The OBEY campaign is rooted in the Do It Yourself counterculture of punk rock and skateboarding, but it has also taken cues from popular culture, commercial marketing and political messaging. Fairey steeps his ideology and iconography in self-empowerment. With biting sarcasm verging on reverse psychology, he goads viewers, using the imperative “obey,” to take heed of the propagandists out to bend the world to their agendas.

OBEY Clothing was formed in 2001 as an extension of Shepard’s range of work. Aligned with his populist views, clothing became another canvas to spread his art and message to the people. The clothing is heavily inspired by classic military design, work wear basics, as well as the elements and cultural movements Shepard has based his art career on. Through designers Mike Ternosky and Erin Wignall, Shepard works to create designs that represent his influences, ideals and philosophy.

OBEY is about variety and experience, thinking about your surroundings and questioning the purpose. Stay tuned for the next chapter, as the canvas will undoubtedly continue to change and evolve. All in the name of fun and observation. The medium is the message.”

-From http://obeyclothing.com/about/

The Surrealist Exhibition, London, 1936, 11th June to 4th July

“The genius of these painters will eventually appear to rest not so much on the always relative novelty of their subject matter, as on the more or less great initiative they display when it is a question of making use of this subject matter… So it is that the whole technical effort of surrealism, from its origins until today, has consisted in multiplying the ways of reaching the most profound levels of the mental personality.” Andre Breton. From the Preface to the Catalogue of the International Surrealist Exhibition, London, 1936, translated by David Gascoyne.

The International Surrealist Exhibition, held from 11 June to 4 July 1936, at the New Burlington Galleries in London, introduced Surrealism to Britain.

The exhibition was organised by Humphrey Jennings, Henry Moore, Herbert Read, Roland Penrose, David Gascoyne, Diana Brinton Lee, Hugh Sykes Davies, Rupert Lee, Paul Nash, E.L.T Mesens, Andre Bréton, Paul Éluard, Man Ray and Georges Hugnet.

Including work by Dalí, Miró and Ernst alongside primitive art, the show was the first of its kind in Britain, attracting international critical acclaim and inciting both the interest and outrage of the sceptical British public. In terms of attendance figures, the exhibition was an outstanding success. The crowds were so large on opening day that traffic in Piccadilly was brought to a standstill. During its three-week run, over thirty thousand people visited the exhibition. Throughout the exhibition, the show’s organisers delivered lectures on the theories and intentions of surrealism to large audiences. Salvador Dali gave the most famous of these lectures on the 1st July. The eminent surrealist caused a furore when he stepped on stage and began to deliver his lecture in a full deep-sea diving suit. Only minutes later, a shocked audience watched with a mixture of horror and disbelief, as he began to suffocate and had to be prised out of the helmet with pliers.

Text and Image : of http://www.luxonline.org.uk/history/1900-1949/the_surrealist_exhibition.html