View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
Giraffe with Blue Coloured Eyes is one of twenty works produced by contemporary artists for the Cubitt Print Box in 2000. Cubitt is an artist-run gallery and studio complex in north London. In 2001 the complex moved from King’s Cross to Islington and the prints were commissioned as part of a drive to raise funds to help finance the move, and to support future exhibitions and events at the new gallery space. All the artists who contributed to the project had previously taken part in Cubitt’s programme. The portfolio was produced in an edition of 100 with twenty artists’ proofs; Tate’s copy is number sixty-six in the series.
Pommerer’s contribution to the Print Box is a brightly coloured silkscreen. Elaborate decorative arabesques in black almost completely cover a yellow background. The freeform patterns, which at first sight resemble obsessive doodles, resolve themselves into the stylised depiction of a jungle scene complete with a large flower-like form. At the top of the image an upside-down giraffe traverses this fantastic landscape. Only half the animal is visible; while parts of its torso, long neck and head appear, its legs and lower body are cut off by the sharp cropping of the print. The giraffe’s typical spotted markings are rendered with irregular black dots on white. Its long curling tongue is coloured pink while its one visible eye and rakish eyebrow are bright blue. In addition, portions of its body are hand coloured in pale stripes of pink and purple. All these sections were hand coloured after the image was screen-printed; while all the giraffes in the edition have blue eyes as the title suggests, their other markings vary in colour. The entire image is broken up by an abstract pattern of uncoloured lines which invade the surface of the print like shards of broken glass. The print has a schematic, kaleidoscopic quality reminiscent of mosaic or stained glass. The inverted image of the giraffe contributes to the fairground feel of the image.
Pommerer is a Stuttgart-based artist best known for large-scale wall drawings; several of his commissions have covered entire rooms. His typically colourful compositions are full of abstract patterning and often incorporating images of benevolent animals, particularly elephants and giraffes, drawn in a style reminiscent of illustrations from children’s storybooks. His drawings also sometimes include scatological texts and erotic doodles inspired by drawings on the walls of public toilets. The all-over quality of his drawings has provoked attention from critics who see it as indicative of a non-hierarchical approach to his exuberant, fantastical subjects. Curator and writer Stephan Berg has commented, ‘What Pommerer show us are ... condensations of signs, derivations of derivations that camouflage their true complexity as seemingly childlike colourfulness’ (Berg, ‘Star Dust’, Peter Pommerer: Wiegeschritt, p.31).
Stephan Berg and Andrea Jahn, Peter Pommerer: Wiegeschritt, exhibition catalogue, Kunstverein Hannover and Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart, 2002.
Raimar Stange, ‘Peter Pommerer: The Writing Machine’, in German Open: Contemporary Art in Germany, exhibition catalogue, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, 2000, pp.218-23.
Harald Fricke, ‘Peter Pommerer’, Artforum, vol.39, no.5, January 2001, p.149.