Transparent paintings

By the 1980s a dialogue with art history became a sort of second nature with Polke, and his new paintings provide many examples of this protean conversation. The Knight 1994 revives and enlarges a wood-block print - surely German, and from around 1500 - that shows a seated knight drying his shoe in front of the fire. As is often the case in these works, the stretcher is visible behind and through the canvas, its bars dividing the image, though without really disrupting its legibility - even emphasising, in fact, the focal position of the shoe. A similar effect appears in The Three Lies of Painting 1994; for Polke, the illusion of transparency is probably one of painting’s lies. Presented as a sort of rebus on the left of this enigmatically lit work is a large vertical band of printed cloth. The motifs - multicoloured hands, some with three bent fingers - simultaneously evoke the cave paintings of Lascaux and Jackson Pollock (Number I 1948).