Untitled (Paula)


Oil on canvas

335.3 x 457.2 cm (132 x 180 in.)

In a monumental painting—three metres high and four metres long—a woman sits with her head against the wall, coolly smoking, lost in her thoughts. A few everyday objects are placed around her—two small flowers in a vase in the blurred foreground, glasses, a table set up in the background. Between light and darkness, the work of the paint, visible in the brushstrokes and the thickness of the materials as soon as one approaches the canvas, contradicts the painting's photographic aspect. The softness of the skin, the fineness of the hair, the texture of the knitting become palpable. A diffuse grain, laid like a veil over the entire work, suspends time. This is the New York gallery owner Paula Cooper, painted by Rudolf Stingel from a 1984 photograph.

What is it to paint? The Italian artist Rudolf Stingel has made his medium, painting, the subject and the mode of his work, which is centred on this question. Between abstraction and figuration, Stingel never stops exploring, pushing back and redefining the boundaries of his art. This intimate portrait, in photorealistic grisaille, is proof of painting's limitless nature. It is executed from a photograph that has been enlarged immensely, without erasing its rough edges, defects, and the marks of time. Faithfully transposed by painting, this image creates the sense of illusion, then of surprise, to the point of blurring the lines between the mediums.