Michael Raedecker
spot 1998

Artwork details

Date 1998
Medium Oil paint, acrylic paint, wool and cotton thread on canvas
Dimensions Support: 1575 x 2032 x 45 mm
Acquisition Purchased with funds provided by the Gytha Trust 1999
Not on display


This is a large beige-coloured painting of a section of landscape. It is dominated by an area of horizontally stitched threads, set within a flattened, roughly oval shape, representing a pool of water. The threads range in colour from a light greenish-beige at the bottom, through tonal gradations of greyish browns, to a darker greenish brown at the top. A ridge, created by a line of wool covered in paint, delineates the outline of the pool. The threads were stitched into the canvas over a layer of poured paint, the same beige as the background, into which lines following the contours of the outline had been scratched. On the right side of the painting the pool is flanked by a convoluted rock-like form in shades of grey paint. Its shape suggests perspectival space, in keeping with the flattened form of the pool. The rock’s shadow is indicated by a narrow margin of horizontal grey threads echoing those of the water pool. A narrow strip of rock has been painted at the bottom left of the painting. In the foreground above this, green and white stitched threads depict stunted flowers. Although monotone, the painting’s ground is textured with scratches and odd bits of thread or fibre incorporated into the paint. Raedecker has been making paintings incorporating thread since 1993. He has explained:

Working with thread is something that’s become my technique. Using it is sometimes quite elaborate ... I think of it like building ... memory from the recollection of influences from the past, in the present, maybe even building the future. I think if I had embroidered the whole image then I would go too far, it would really be too much like craft or folk art ... there are certain details which are important so they deserve more work and more detail. Others are empty. There are things happening on the surface of the overall image which hopefully make your eye float around the image ... I always try to find different means for how to use thread ... I don’t fill everything in. I leave room for the viewer to step into the image.

(Quoted in Die Young Stay Pretty [p.42].)

Raedecker’s paintings typically depict landscapes and modern interiors, always eerily devoid of humans or animals. His colours are muted and cool in tone – blues, greens, greys, browns, beige and white. To make a painting, Raedecker alternately suspends the canvas vertically in space, allowing him to pass threads through it with ease, and lays it down flat in order to paint on it. Dilute acrylic is applied in thin washes or, in a thicker state, is poured, creating organic pools and blobs. The drying process of the poured paint creates unpredictable effects, which the artist enjoys. Stitched threads and scattered fibres matt into layers of the paint and emerge from it. Natural and synthetic yarns and fibres are mixed with such decorative elements as sequins and, occasionally as in overnight (Tate T07515), narrow strips of wood veneer of the type used to cover the surface of furniture and panelling. The paintings convey moods ranging from melancholy to the vaguely sinister. Their restrained colours and at times desolate emptiness contrast with the tactility of the materials, resulting in an enigmatic sense of unease.

Raedecker grew up in suburban Holland watching American television series featuring middle-class suburban American families. While these suburban worlds were an early source for the scenarios depicted in his paintings, Raedecker believes that in more recent work they provide the formal structure for him to express ‘how I experience life’ (quoted from an unpublished conversation with the artist, 10th March 2000). Although buildings in his paintings are accurately delineated according to perspectival rules, the landscape is often viewed from strange angles, creating unreal, dream-like spaces. The horizon is usually absent and, although carefully delineated shadows indicate that light falls, its source is never apparent. With its predominantly beige and grey tones, the landscape portrayed in spot appears to be decaying, an industrial wasteland or some other abandoned site. Its title may be read as subverting the notion of a pleasant ‘spot’ in the landscape which, in this instance, is a muddy grey area representing a large ‘spot’ of possibly polluted water.

Raedecker specifies that his titles should be all lower case letters because for him, a title is ‘just a word’ associated with the image of the painting (quoted from an unpublished conversation with the artist, 16th October 2002), rather than a proper name.

Further reading:
Die Young Stay Pretty, exhibition catalogue, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London 1998, pp.7,8 and 42-5, reproduced (colour) p.45
Michael Raedecker: extract, exhibition catalogue, Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven 1999, reproduced (colour) p.13
Turner Prize 2000, exhibition brochure, Tate Britain 2000, [pp.8-9]

Elizabeth Manchester
August 2002