Katharina Fritsch
Tate Modern: Exhibition
7 December 9 December 2001

The sculptures of Katharina Fritsch have a way of imprinting themselves on the mind. With their simple outlines and bold use of colour, they have the clarity of icons or pictographs. Her figures and objects are reminiscent of fairy tales, fables and myths.

The attention that Fritsch pays to the surfaces of the sculptures, and to their colour, scale, and the space in which they are presented creates a strange tension between the familiar and the uncanny. A life-size elephant is anatomically exact down to the last fold of skin, but painted an unearthly blue-green. A man, tucked up in bed, is confronted by a giant black mouse that squats on his chest. The effect of giving solid reality to the visionary and fantastic is unsettling. It is a relationship that Fritsch is keen to explore: ‘I find the play between reality and apparition very interesting’, she says, ‘I think my work moves back and forth between these two poles.’

Her sculptures open up dark areas of our collective consciousness and confront deep-seated anxieties, although this is often tempered by humour. Their iconography is drawn from many different sources, including Christianity, art history and folklore, without being reducible to a single source or meaning.

In her working process, Fritsch combines the techniques of traditional sculpture with those of industrial production. She uses models to create moulds, from which the final sculptures are cast in materials such as plaster, polyester and aluminium.

Many are made as editions, meaning that multiple casts are taken from one mould. Full of allusions to nightmares, spectres and symbolic figures, Fritsch’s work gives substance and weight to the fleeting products of our imagination.

Katharina Fritsch was born in 1956 in Essen, Germany. She studied at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf (1977–84). Since her first show in 1984 she has exhibited widely in Europe, Japan and the USA. She represented Germany at the 1995 Venice Biennale. She lives and works in Düsseldorf.

Exhibition curated by Iwona Blazwick and Susanne Bieber.