17 October

FIAC 2018 : Katharina Grosse's bonfire of colour at the Grand Palais


Katharina grosse transforms the world with her spray gun. Born in 1961, the german artist has splattered many a prestigious museum with her violent colours, as well as her own bedroom and even a house. She’s now been invited by the villa médicis in rome, home to the french academy, which she’s transformed into an explosive landscape made up of trunks of a pine tree planted over a century ago by ingres.

Propos recueillis par Thibaut Wychowanok, Close-ups photos Philippe Fragnière

Katharina Gross exhibition view at Grand Palais, on the Gagosian stand.

Numéro art: When did colour become central to your work?

After my studies in Münster and Düsseldorf, I needed to take a break. I used to wake up every morning wanting to create, but not knowing exactly what. I made videos and sculptures, and tried in vain to capture a tree or a face in paint. But it never worked. Why? Because it wasn’t what I saw. I always perceived reality as dispersive.


How does this relate to colour?

Colours are not delimited by an object, a surface or a plane. Yellow doesn’t have to be restricted to a lemon. It can be anywhere. The idea that colour can be detached from form crystallized in the late 19th-century. For the Impressionists, colour sprang out separately from the object represented. This is why I love spray painting. Unlike with a brush, the colours don’t mix directly. The spray creates a mist of drops, that overlay and create shapes.


Painting without acknowledging the separation between a oor and a wall is a way of blurring the frontier between surfaces and objects.
Yes, but the spot where the two converge is always interesting. If you take a close look at this spot, you’ll notice how special it is, immense and full of con icts that are anything but disagreeable.


“Ingres Wood”, Katharina Grosse, 2018, 255 x 555 x 2,360 cm.


“Ingres Wood”, Katharina Grosse, 2018, 255 x 555 x 2,360 cm.



Curator Chiara Parisi said of your work, “The landscape is no longer accommodated on canvas, it becomes the pictorial surface itself.” Do your works in situ evoke imaginary landscapes, fantastic visions?

It’s not about utopias or imaginary places you might aspire to. You can experience them physically, since art is nothing other than real. You’re at once in reality and in your own imagination. Both coincide and cross-fertilize each other, but don’t exclude each other.


Most of your work is on a very large scale.

I learned through Robert Smithson that there is a big difference between size and scale. The one is measurable, while the other is psychological. And it’s the notion of scale that interests me: the psychological impact produced, for example, by huge logs in the Villa Médicis. This can generate any number of mental images, such as home and hearth, a magni ed replace. There’s also a certain violence in placing them in this interior.


Where does this violence come from in a work like Ingres Wood at the Villa Médicis?
This violence was made necessary by the villa itself. Faced with such a strong building, one with such a powerful architectural vocabulary, I needed a raw and simple image, such as a primitive re, for it to be able to stand out and be noticed.


“Ingres Wood”, Katharina Grosse, 2018, 255 x 555 x 2,360 cm.

There’s also violence in the total contamination of space with colour.
Painting has the ability to be very close to you. Like a sound or a voice, colour can catch hold of you. You’re caught in its emotion. Violence is an interesting emotion as long as it’s not related to narration, such as a story that recounts a murder, for example. Experiencing violence simply as a pure energy can be extraordinary.


Would it be fair to say that your artworks are pure abstractions?
Abstraction mustn’t be understood as a minimalist way of creating. In the Modernist era, some artists tried to represent only the essential, the mere skeleton. For me abstraction is more like a big leap: you have an intention, something in mind, and this catapults you somewhere. You don’t create by following a path, but rather by imagining rst one thing and then another. You don’t tell a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. Abstraction allows you to escape a narrative structure which would impose a succession of de ned steps on you.


The audience is also catapulted into your artworks. They walk through them and their experience of them is very carnal.
I always try to offer a multidimensional experience of painting: you walk trough it and you discover it from all sorts of different perspectives. Painting creates a tactile image. It doesn’t mean you can touch it, but that the surface of the painting awakes your intelligence, your body and your empathy.


Katharina Grosse's installation is visible on the stand of the gallery Gagosian, at the Grand Palais, during the FIAC 2018, until October 21.

Exhibition Wunderbild, until de 6th January 2019 at the National Gallery, Prague.