Drawings, Collages and Book Drafts
29 January - 30 April 2011
Talbot Rice Gallery was the only UK venue for 'Rosemarie Trockel Drawings, Collages and Book Drafts', the largest display of works on paper to date by the internationally renowned artist. The exhibition was a partnership between Talbot Rice Gallery, Kunstmuseum Basel and Kunstmuseum Bonn. Due to the scale of the exhibition, featuring nearly 200 drawings, collages and book drafts, it was hung in all rooms of the gallery.
Within the Academic tradition of Fine Art, drawing was exclusively part of a (predominantly male) artist’s preparatory work and training; it was a starting point for a longer process that was intended to result in a fully resolved oil painting, meticulously worked to remove all brush stokes and signs of uncertainty. Within Rosemarie Trockel’s contemporary practice this uncertainty has become a central part of a strategy to undermine the authoritative systems that have, and continue to, administer specific representations of reality and prescribe certain subjective positions.
Trockel’s ‘mistrust’ stems from the fact that she has continually encountered opposition within a male dominated art world; although the artist builds upon a strong German artistic context, which includes Joseph Beuys and Martin Kippenberger, she is critical of its implicit machismo. Against an Enlightenment tradition to treat the self as a rational, finite entity, the anthropomorphic figures in Trockel’s drawings blur the boundaries between representations of conscious and unconscious, human and animal states.
Since 2004, collages have become a distinct part of Rosemarie Trockel’s oeuvre, often allowing her to recombine aspects of her multifaceted practice, which has included photography, film, sculpture and installation. If drawing allows Trockel, “both springboard and experimental space [that] for all its heterogeneity evinces continuities of both form and space” *, then collage allows those forms and spaces to be reworked and re-contextualised.
Rosemarie Trockel has long worked on book drafts - small examples of books that could possibly be produced - which became a central part of her practice. This exhibition marked the first time book drafts have been exhibited so extensively. Bearing a similarity to sketchbooks, they, “reveal much about Trockel’s thinking process while keeping the inquisitive reader at a safe distance” **.
Trockel mistrusts the evidence of the pictorial, the clarity and lack of ambiguity of the absolutist approach, and prefers to populate her pictures with chimeras and grotesques that at times seem comical, at times inscrutable
Like her drawings, the book drafts consciously play with expectations and negate easy readings. They open up the possibility of interpreting Trockel’s work in a non-linear fashion, seeing them as potential ideas for future works, while simultaneously being a record of her past ideas. These works also suggest art therapy in which fears might be realised and faced. Indeed, the exhibition as a whole seemed to reveal a much deeper set of fears, where all that is repressed by strict systems of representation appears to return.
Rosemarie Trockel (1952) became prominent in the mid 1980s with her now famous ‘knitted pictures’. Today Trockel is highly regarded internationally and has won several awards for her sophisticated practice, represented Germany at the Venice Biennale (1999 and 2003) and her work is represented in collections worldwide. Rosemarie Trockel lives and works in Cologne.
* Christoph Schreier (2010) in the exhibition catalogue (Questioning the Middle: People, Animals, and Mutants in Rosemarie Trockels Work’s on Paper).
** Gregory Williams (2010) in the exhibition catalogue (The Art of Indecision: Rosemarie Trockel’s Book Drafts).