Katharina Grosse’s medium is painting, but it is obvious that she has developed an expanded notion of painting. Though she never gave up her studio-based practice of painting on canvas, she mostly creates her large-scale works directly on architecture or the outdoor environment, omitting the traditional canvas support. Not unlike a graffiti artist, she marks the territory, then appropriates the space and the forms on a one-to-one scale. She applies luminous, sometimes almost hallucinogenic washes of paint with an air compressor and a spray gun. Rather than applying liquid paint in the traditional way, which reveals the artist’s contact between brush and support, this technique (usually used for utilitarian purposes), highlights the artist’s movement as she controls the trajectory of the aerosol paint in a planned yet unique manner. It is for this reason that her site-specific three-dimensional works immediately assume an environmental quality rather than being merely painted objects. The tension between real and illusion is one of her main concerns. The paradox between infinite, immaterial thinking translated or materialized in the actuality of the paint is especially apparent in her work.
Grosse’s three-dimensional paintings call to mind a wide range of painting traditions, from cave painting to the ancient Greek, Roman, and Renaissance traditions of fresco painting on walls and ceilings, to the notion of the sublime in Romanticism. Her works make visible the role of the staging of paintings. The elements incorporated into her three-dimensional paintings thereby have gradually become more complex, covering floors and ceiling, adding furniture, or—in the case of her installation at the 56th Biennale di Venezia—including textiles and huge blocks of Styrofoam carved into shapes that resemble fragments of meteorites or masses of earth and rubble.