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Katharina Grosse: Touching How and Why and Where

Gagosian, Hong Kong

Artist: Katharina Grosse

With my painting I seek to incite agitation. I want us to be so disturbed, positively or negatively, that we develop the desire to change something—preferably immediately and repeatedly.
—Katharina Grosse

Gagosian presents Touching How and Why and Where, an exhibition of new studio paintings by Katharina Grosse, presented to coincide with Art Basel Hong Kong. It follows Katharina Grosse Studio Paintings, 1988–2022: Returns, Revisions, Inventions, which began its tour at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum in St. Louis in September 2022, and is now on view at the Kunstmuseum Bern until June 25, 2023—the artist’s first major survey in Switzerland.

Installation Views

Grosse is known for her use of a compressor-driven spraying technique to blast vividly colored paint across panels, objects, architectural interiors and exteriors, and even entire landscapes. In these spectacular yet nuanced explorations of physical gesture and sensory effect, she expands the scope and potential of painting beyond its conventional territories. Conducting a kind of controlled improvisation, she sparks new interactions between hand, eye, material, and site.

Grosse’s on-site projects are preceded by a body of studio painting, and she continues to pursue both practices in parallel. She has often used stencils and other objects to disrupt her canvases’ variegated chromatic fields, emphasizing the intersection of abstract visuality with natural and built environments. The compositions that were on view in Prototypes of Imagination, her 2018 exhibition at Gagosian, London, feature blocks of color that dissolve into one another, creating ghostly silhouettes interrupted by stenciled areas of negative space, while the panels in Repetitions without Origin, her 2021 exhibition at Gagosian, Beverly Hills, incorporate linear marks left by the interpolation of botanical fragments.

In making the works on view in Hong Kong, Grosse took an open-ended approach to process by eschewing the use of stencils and other items. “The stencils worked as obstacles to the image,” she explains. “I have shifted my interest toward the free flow of color and its ambiguity.” Each new canvas is marked by a cluster of sprayed lines of color that begins outside the canvas itself before moving, over a white ground, through the panel’s top left and beyond its bottom right. Some lines are well-defined, while others are much looser, applied with less pressure or from a greater distance to generate an ethereal effect. Appearing to overlap and interweave, these ribbons of bright orange, red, green, and blue are reminiscent of tangles of wire or wool.

Grosse has described the act of painting as a prototype of human activity, and these energized records of dynamic gesture function in precisely this way. Derived from sweeping motions of the artist’s body, they also allude to ideas around velocity and density—and to the possibilities of extending both pictorial space and movement beyond the matter-of-fact limits of the canvas, and imagination beyond preconceived concepts and fixed hierarchies. While she prepares for the on-site works by constructing models and collaborating with assistants over a strictly limited interval, Grosse produces the studio paintings with a direct technique, rarely making sketches or detailed plans, and often reworks them over time. In both cases, however, the results reveal the same attitude of curiosity and openness.

Installation view, Katharina Grosse: Touching How and Why and Where at Gagosian, Hong Kong, March 21 - May 6, 2023 Artwork © Katharina Grosse and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Germany 2023. Courtesy Gagosian. Photo: Martin Wong

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