Sigmar Polke

Oels Germany 1941 - Cologne Germany 2010

Hermes Trismegistos I-IV
1995
synthetic resin and lacquer on polyester fabric
4 parts, I: 200 x 190 cm; II-IV: 300 x 400 cm
1996.SP.03

These paintings are representative of Polke’s interest in the history of ideas, but also of his remarkable painterly inventiveness, his pleasure in experimentation and open use of existing visual material.
The cycle takes its title from Hermes Trismegistos, the mythical figure who is considered the founder of alchemy and the inventor of hieroglyphics.

The depiction that Polke has used is that of a floor mosaic in the cathedral of Siena – Hermes granting the gifts of Writing and Legal Doctrine to the Arabs. The smallest canvas shows the depiction in its entirety; on the larger three, various fragments of the image have been enlarged. The carrier, a transparent screen through which the stretchers are clearly visible, has been painted on both sides, giving rise to a complex stratification of the image.
The halftone image has been applied to the front side. Halftone dots haved played a prominent role in Polke’s work since the sixties, when he and Gerhard Richter initiated Kapitalistisches Realismus, the antipode of the social realism that became known in history as German Pop.