Polke and Richter: All-overness

Sigmar Polke, Untitled, acrylic and dispersion on printed fabric, 35 × 27 inches
Sigmar Polke, Untitled, acrylic and dispersion on printed fabric, 35 × 27 inches (Christie’s Images Ltd)

Dan Coombs considers the quality of "all-overness" in painting.

Coombs writes that "all-overness is a quality that can be drawn out of anything, a doodle, a stain, a meandering drip, the most quotidian black and white photograph, it has the effect of turning the image back into a question, like suspending an image into a state of ambiguity, or giving the simplest geometry a floating quality – even the zips in Barnett Newman’s zip paintings are themselves fields, held by the surrounding fields of colour. It turns the tables on meaning because it has the effect of effacing the particular meanings of the image and elevating the image into a state of contemplation, as though you are able to contemplate something without being implicated in it, without it looking back at you and imposing itself upon you... Painting doesn’t so much annihilate meaning as suspend it and this may be why painting is such an anathema to conservative, rational thinkers. Wasn’t it Adorno who defined conservative thinking as “intolerance of ambiguity”? Yet ambiguity is the condition that brings relief from all the meanings in the world, relief from ideology and rational delusions."