Rosemarie Trockel: Drawings, Collages and Book Drafts presents almost 200 works at the Talbot Rice Gallery, University of Edinburgh. Trockel’s explorations of artistic and social relations began in the 1980s, and her practice includes photography, film, sculpture and installation. Since 2004, she has embraced collage, opening the space for a recombination of ideas, motifs and materials.
Hals, Nase, Ohr, und Bein (Throat, Nose, Ear, and Leg) features a knitted piece, a familiar material that Trockel has drawn on in previous works, where patterns created with the aid of a computer and machines pull apart the associations traditionally made between women’s work and domesticity. Trockel fits the knitted piece within a printed illustration of a book cover, titled “Anonymous was a woman” with a drawing of a back-facing woman, perhaps alluding to the historical gaps surrounding authorship and gender. While the collage elements are connected through figurative sketches, the fully-suited androgynous figure appears as a contrast. The connotation of the leg as gestural and grounded, stands apart from the vocal and auditory qualities of the throat, nose and ear. Though resisting a clear narrative, the combination of these textual and visual elements provokes thoughts pertaining to the nature of the presence, and absence, of female representations and voices.
Acts to expose and question depictions of gender and sexuality cut across a large section of Trockel’s work. The Academy where Trockel encountered opposition in a male-dominated environment in the 1970s is also a source for her investigations of alternative techniques to challenge established ideals regarding art making.
In Vorstudie (Preliminary Study), a painting of what appears to be a police figure is splashed with white. Patches and indeterminate shapes, where formlessness, as a product of chance, counters the rigor instilled by the Academy to remove signs of uncertainty in paintings.
The rejection of definite boundaries in favor of ambiguity has led to Trockel’s anthropomorphic figures. The wiry, matted hair and tiny skeletal hands against the body of the child Klienkind mit Skelettierten Händen (Little Child with Skeletal Hand) bring together life and death, innocence and sterility, in a visual image which appears eerie yet compelling for the manner in which it reflects the contradictory manifestations of human nature.
Rosemarie Trockel (b. 1952) lives and works in Cologne, and is a professor at the Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. She represented Germany at the Venice Biennale in 1999 and 2003, and has another ongoing solo show, at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin on view through April 25, 2011.