Sigmar Polke’s hand


This drawing is by Sigmar Polke, Untitled, 1988, watercolour on paper, 70 x100cm. It appears to contain at least one figure on the right, which may or may not be wearing a German helmet from WW2 with a swastika on the front of it. There are two big eyes, too wide apart and a pig like nose, a body, too small, if it is a German soldier from WW2 it’s more of a caricature. The figure seems purposeful, striding or standing with legs apart staring at something unknown. The line describing the body is interrupted and then restarted with yellow paint instead of black. From the left of the image some kind of force emanates, a flash or an explosion represented by force lines from the bottom left hand corner and patches of two different types of yellow paint. It is as if Polke has stopped and started the drawing a number of times, the different layers of drawing, some nebulous others decisive and descriptive, might not have had an intended relationship. The linear parts appear to be over the top of the stained watery parts and the lines have different intensities, some grey, some black and some blacker. The paper has buckled under the weight of the wet medium, this only adds to the action. There is some sort of structure and ornamental swirls that might describe an interior with furniture. The figure could be on the phone, a confusion of lines in the centre fractures any straight forward interpretation but there is an all-over quality to the picture, things are evenly distributed and balanced. I like Sigmar Polke, I once held his hand during a ceilidh in his honour upstairs at the Bluecoat Gallery in Liverpool after his show ‘Join the dots’ opened in the Tate in 1995. Someone’s very good idea was to give him a hearty Liverpudlian/Irish welcome, the traditional local lobscouse stew and the ceilidh seemed appropriate. During a Barn Dance you tend to hold lots of people’s hands one after another which is part of its charm, the innocent contact with others involved in a common joyous act. Through Sigmar Polke’s hand I felt his enjoyment of the situation and what I decided at the time and still believe was his innate sense of fun.


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