Michael Raedecker



Not on display

Michael Raedecker born 1963
Oil paint, acrylic paint, wood veneer, wool and cotton thread on canvas
Support: 1879 × 1475 × 75 mm
Purchased 1999


This is a large beige painting of a cropped suburban landscape. Portrait in format, it is dominated by its foreground area of poured paint out of which short lengths of khaki-coloured threads protrude. Green and pink threads have been stitched into the canvas in this area to represent flowers and, perhaps, grass. The upper third of the canvas is occupied by the sketched outline of a building resembling a house and adjoining garage. It is modern in style (1970s) and mainly concealed by a long brick wall, parallel to a long, sloping roof. The opening of the garage, partially outlined by two narrow strips of wood veneer glued onto the canvas, is the main focal point of the painting. Outlines of the roof, chimney, walls and driveway are delineated by lines of bobbly brown wool. Plants growing around the base of the garage are suggested by stitched brown yarns in co-ordinating tones. The building and its driveway, the sky behind it and the piece of open ground in front of it are all the same beige colour, only distinguished from each other by added texture. In the sky, bits of fibre have been incorporated into the washes of paint. On the house, lines of bricks and shadows, resulting from the roof overhang, have been drawn using parallel lines of fine thread stitched through the canvas. In the foreground area the blending and cracking of the paint has created the appearance of a vast muddy pool, dotted with the emerging plant details. 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 acrylic 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 this painting, 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. Common to post 1950s suburbia throughout the western world, the architectural features and compromised natural environments in Raedecker’s paintings stem from the artist’s childhood and adolescence. Born and bred in Holland, he has described that country as a ‘false landscape’ (quoted in Turner Prize 2000, [p.9]). Although buildings in his paintings are accurately delineated according to perspectival rules, the landscape is often viewed from strange angles, creating unreal spaces, the stuff of dreams. The title, overnight, would seem to indicate a sleeping house, the contents of which the viewer may only imagine. The shadows under the house’s eaves indicate moonlight, but no moon or even sky is portrayed.

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
Michael Raedecker: extract, exhibition catalogue, Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven 1999, reproduced (colour) p.17
Turner Prize 2000, exhibition brochure, Tate Britain 2000, [pp.8-9]

Elizabeth Manchester
August 2002

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Display caption

Raedecker’s paintings show alienated landscapes, devoid of human or animal presence. Using thread, wool and other textiles, he produces layered surfaces with a wide range of textures. While beautiful, Raedecker’s enigmatic images are also strangely unsettling. His sombre colours – cool greys, muted blues, beiges and greens – create a melancholy mood. The absence of figures and lack of a clear narrative generates a feeling of anxious expectation, undermining the banality of his suburban iconography.

Gallery label, September 2008

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Technique and condition

The painting was executed on a single piece of medium-weight, commercially primed linen canvas that is stretched around its original softwood expandable stretcher and attached with wire staples at the rear. The commercial white priming has been analysed as an acrylic emulsion gesso material and exists as a reasonably thin and even layer, through which the canvas texture remains very evident. The back of the linen was sealed by the artist with an unpigmented acrylic emulsion 'size'.

The image is created with acrylic emulsion paint, and cotton and wool threads, although the precise order of execution of paint / thread application is not entirely clear. However, an overall 'imprimatura' layer of grey acrylic emulsion paint was probably first applied over the entire canvas. This is a thin yellowish grey colour and was probably watered down slightly before application. Further paint layers were then applied, interspersed with the positioning and fixing of some of the cotton and wool threads. For example, paint covers the threads that were used in the outlines and contours of the house and path etc., whereas it does not for the cotton threads used for the brickwork, which were threaded through from the front of canvas. The acrylic paint appears poured on in places, especially the thicker acrylic part in the lower two thirds of the painting. The paint here appears to have been mixed on the canvas, probably with a brush or stick and extreme drying cracks are visible that add an interesting texture. Most of the wool threads in this area stand perpendicular to the canvas plane and are stiff with the impregnation of additional paint. However, some threads are not covered in paint and appear quite floppy. The strips of wood veneer (used for the garage door) are glued onto the painting and were probably one of the last features to be added (the lower right strip was cut to fit around the woollen 'bush', which in turn was applied after the paint in that area had dried). The painting is not varnished.

The painting is currently in excellent condition. Providing the appropriate level of care is taken when handling or displaying the work (the threads in particular are very vulnerable to being snagged etc), the painting should remain in good condition. This includes the use of a barrier when on display. The main concern with this work is that the light resistance of the threads is not known. Fading tests are currently being carried out in the scientific section of Tate's conservation department, but an overall lowering of light levels would be beneficial.

Tom Learner
June 2000

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