Friday, February 13, 2015

Arty Farty Friday ~ Sigmar Polke and his "ungraspable logic"

Before the Sun slides out of Aquarius into Pisces there's one more artist with natal Sun in Aquarius who ought to be investigated: Sigmar Polke (pronounced, I think, Polka). I'd never heard of him, but recent exhibitions of his work at Tate Modern and MOMA have spawned numerous reviews and articles, as did the artist's death in 2010 at age 69.

Sigmar Polke was born on 13 February 1941 in Oels, Lower Silesia, once eastern Germany, present-day in Poland. After World War II, Polke and his family fled to East Germany and, in 1953, escaped to Düsseldorf. He trained as a glass painter, later studied at The Arts Academy of Düsseldorf. From 1977–1991, he was a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts, Hamburg. He later settled in Cologne where he continued to live and work until his death in June 2010.

None of the above dry facts tells us anything about the man or his style of artwork. Several reviews and articles offer a better view, for example, in:
The New Yorker, by By Peter Schjelda
Polke was a big man with the twinkle of a gamin. I met him a few times and found him dazzlingly intelligent, funny, and exhausting. As Buchloh says, “You could not have a conversation with Polke without his continuously destabilizing your sense of self, without his suggesting that it rested on some type of oblivion or disavowal.” .........he discoursed on ancient philosophical and technical sources for a suite of stained-glass windows, in the Protestant cathedral of Zürich, which became his last major project. I felt awash in a sea of exotic erudition and ungraspable logic, listening to Polke .........There was a fearless, spooky otherness to his cast of mind, in key with an attraction to mysticism. “Higher Beings Commanded: Paint the Upper-Right Corner Black!” is the title of a canvas in the show from 1969; the corner is black. In the early seventies, he shared a farmhouse with many friends and indulged heavily in hallucinogenic drugs, which caused a dip in his career, but, in contrast to the more commonly dicey toll of such a regimen, plainly nourished the brainstorms of his later work.....

We Love Culture - Sigmar Polke: The Alchemist amongst the Chaos.
Polke ridicules artistic pomposity. For example, he mocks the spiritual claims of abstract artists in “Higher Beings Command: Paint the Upper Right Hand Corner Black” (image on right). In this sense, Sigmar Polke was the "Private Eye" or "Charlie Hebdo" of German post-modernism. He was sometimes abstract, sometimes representational. But there is always a political or philosophical agenda, and always there are layers........But if you really want to get close to Polke you need to work harder, because he doesn’t smash you in the face with his messages. You have to dig. You have to think. Polke’s work is complex, elusive and perpetually in flux, because that’s how the world is. And complexity makes us uncomfortable. What we really want in life are simple solutions to our problems. We look for assurance in a 500 word web-article, or better still, a 140 character tweet.

The Guardian - by Adrian Searle
This unfathomable artist was much more than just another painter. His difficulty is also what is so tantalising. Like many of the unstable, fugitive and light-sensitive pigments he sometimes used, and those layers of brown, resinous murk, as soon as you think you see him clearly, his art takes a turn and eludes you once again. His elusiveness was deliberate, a way to stay free.
Polke’s paintings could be cantankerous and awkward and weirdly ugly, and could also leave you standing on the brink of beauty, wallowing in gorgeous colour. There were surfaces as delicate and ephemeral as scent (using, in one work, a purple dye derived from slugs, painted on silk), and others gloopy with thick polyester resin, which revealed and obscured layers of buried and overpainted imagery, depending on where you stand and how the light falls. Experiment and play were at the heart of his art, but were backed up by an encyclopedic and inquiring mind and a curiosity about how paintings have been and might be made.

Three of Polke's paintings I like, below - couldn't find the titles, sorry!

Rather than adding more images, I'm including a couple of 4 minute videos featuring some of Polke's work, with narration, one from MOMA the other from Tate:


Sigmar Polke born 13 February 1941 in Oels, Silesia, Poland. No time of birth is known, chart is set for 12 noon.

Polke's natal Sun at 24 Aquarius is very close to 3 Fixed stars, all categorised as "fortunate", one of them, Deneb Algedi is a Behenian Star, the others are Sadalsuud, and Sador. His obvious sharp intellect is represented there. His natal Sun is squaring Aquarius' modern ruler, Uranus in Taurus. Saturn, Aquarius' traditional ruler is also in Taurus, conjunct Jupiter, squared by Polke's natal Venus (planet of the arts). Taurus is ruled by Venus, so a tangled, somewhat contrary linkage to art is present. Natal Venus is opposed by Pluto from Leo, and forms, along with the squares to Saturn/Jupiter, what astrologers call a "T-square", a challenging, rather uncomfortable circuit of aspects. Polke's cynical, contrary attitudes to some modern art styles could be reflected in this tangled network.

The elusive element in his paintings could relate to Neptune. If Polke were born late in the day it's possible natal Moon would have been very close to Neptune, which would provide a good fit. We find Neptune in Virgo, in harmonious trine to Uranus in Taurus - and Uranus, as noted already, sits in a scratchy linkage to natal Sun. From one of the snips quoted above: His elusiveness was deliberate, a way to stay free. Staying free, a classic requirement for any true Aquarius-type!

The political and/or philosophical elements embedded in Polke's paintings reflect the Aquarius (politics) and Jupiter (philosophy) tangles within his natal chart.

Other than the above notes, and in the absence of a time of birth, nothing else leaps out to me as translating to the kind of personality indicated in the three snips from articles posted above.


mike said...

Thanks for always expanding my unknown artists, Twilight! I don't often poke into the art world on my own.

His natal Venus that you discuss is in mutual reception to Saturn and Uranus, and these three planets are his final dispositors. Taurus-Venus blending with Aquarian rulers is certain to provide the avant garde personality. His Mercury (in detriment in Pisces) in reception to Neptune (in detriment in Virgo) tend to negate each other, as they are in opposing signs, but this may be an essential factor in his agenda with art as a medium of mental expression.

BEWARE...FRIDAY the 13th:

"To this day, parties are wary of having 13 members, he says. In Paris, there are businesses that will rent you a professional 14th dinner guest, called a quatorzieme.

Fernsler's career at the university began in a numerically auspicious manner.

'I got the call to come in and interview on Friday, Aug. 13, at 1:13 p.m. — the 13th minute past the 13th hour,' he said. 'U.S. 13 is the route I had to take to get there. I bought a paper that day, and 103 was the winning lottery number. So I put a bet on a horse named Lucky Friday, who was running in the 13th race.'

His horse naturally won, right?

'No,' Fernsler said. 'He finished 13th.'"

Twilight said...

mike ~ I enjoy doing these art posts, plus I've continued the Arty Farty Friday theme for a long time mainly because the posts do continue to get "hits" for years after original posting date - which helps to keep statistics looking better. Lots of hits are via images, but I like to think that maybe some hits come from art students struggling with homework essays or whatever, and maybe they'll cull an idea or two from these scribbles. :-)

Thanks for the additional astro points. He seems to have been quite "a piece of work" himself doesn't he!

LOL about Friday 13 article. This is one superstition I have no bother in seeing as simply daft, but its continuance provides fodder for journalists/columnists year by year. It'd be a dull old world without such daftness.