Since the 1990s, Katharina Grosse has built up a repertoire consisting of large painted canvasses and bright acrylic colours sprayed onto both interior and exterior walls, ceilings and floors. It is a way of working related to Colour Field Painting and Abstract Expressionism, between Impressionism and graffiti, performance, process and installation art. She investigates the limits of painting by using different concepts belonging to contemporary and traditional artistic expression, in which making and presenting paintings continues to occupy an important place.
The spray gun and the spray can are the tools that Grosse employs. Canvasses, strips of paper, walls and ceilings, as well as organic materials and objects are her supports. Re-use is central to Grosse’s work, so that the development of her ideas becomes visible and transparent. This accessibility ensures that the viewer becomes part of the painting process, as he has to immediately look for points of contact and to reconstruct the different parts from which Grosse’s narrative installations are constructed.
Dressed from head to foot in protective white overalls and wearing a mask, gloves and earplugs, Grosse looks like a scientist making tests in a laboratory or a member of a team clearing up after a toxic disaster when you see her at work. It has little in common with the traditional way of painting but everything that is characteristic of painting - light, colour, composition, texture and painterly treatment - also underlies her art practice. These impressive works bring painting back to its essence: the applying of pure colour onto a surface. By repainting, removing and relocating parts, the dynamism of the working process is revealed. The complex works possess a large degree of drama Sometimes they are light and airy, but more often they are dark and destructive. There is always more to discover: Grosse’s unorthodox work deserves to be viewed meticulously. The detail demands just as much attention as the whole that obtains a three-dimensional dimension. Her paintings run effortlessly from wall to ceiling or floor, bending round corners of adjacent surfaces. You are literally standing in the middle of a painting.
Katharina Grosse has created an overwhelming installation in De Appel, composed of enormous canvasses, tondos, sand, clay and sheets of styrofoam onto which virtually the entire colour spectrum has been sprayed in light and dark tones. Here and there condensing into areas with drips running down along the walls or elsewhere dissolving gradually into a trace. Circular white holes suggest the absence of paintings, leaving a negative print in the space. She sprays all over and everywhere, ignoring the surface. Everything disappears in the violence of the sprayed patterns reminiscent of a filmic landscape where the spectator is allotted the role of a white-suited laboratory assistant.
Holey Residue is an extensive project that has been specially generated for De Appel and follows a series of projects in such buildings as UCLA, Los Angeles; The White Cube, London; Magasin 3, Stockholm and Palais de Tokyo, Paris, and public spaces like Toronto Airport, Canada.
De Appel Arts Centre, Amsterdam, press release
Katharina Grosse's website