REVIEW: Katharina Grosse’s latest circus of colour

REVIEW: Katharina Grosse’s latest circus of colour

A colossal art installation has transformed Sydney’s historic Carriageworks site into a technicolour dreamland. 

The air is thick with humidity and anticipation as dozens line up to hear renowned artist Katharina Grosse introduce The Horse Trotted Another Couple Metres, Then It Stopped. The German academic is known across Europe but this will be the first chance many Australians get to see her work.

The heritage site’s abysmal acoustics sent her amplified accent bouncing through the rafters, making her address sound, at times, like the rumbling of a theatening sky. It is, perhaps, a fitting filter for Grosse’s thoughts about her latest piece.  In a recent interview with Carriageworks she said the name “doesn’t mean anything … it conveys an atmosphere”.

The impact of the work itself swiftly dispatches any memory of technical misfortune: from the outside the work looks for all the world like the greatest blanket fort of all time.

You enter this daunting space by gently wriggling through a cut in the side. There is an immediate change in atmosphere. There is no pre-determined route: you choose where to go, stand, how long to stay and which colour combinations to take in. Many people take time to find the best angle and aspect to match their outfits.

Its insta-worthy selfie appeal correlates to Grosse’s characterisation of the piece as similar to a theatre stage on which colour plays the main role. Her decision to leave the work without soundtrack leaves the colours to speak loudly for themselves. Everywhere, people are enjoying the experience, from the posing adults to the laughing children  and the selfie takers.

The engagement of the viewer is arguably the greatest accomplishment of this installation as a public artwork.The Horse Trotted Another Couple Metres, Then It Stopped taps into the universal love of colour,  inviting visitors to indulge themselves in its sunny yellows, grassy greens, hot pinks and royal blues.

The spectacle is something like a post apocalyptic scene in the distant future, where human artists are long gone and giant robots had a first try at painting.  Like a small child who is proud of a new picture, the canvas is draped extravagantly through the space in all its technicolour glory. It truly is a marvellous circus tent of colour, perfect for visiting kids and kids-at-heart.

Playful and effortless as the work appears, the process of creation was serious business Grosse conceived of the idea during a recent trip to Athens, but it took a team of engineers and installation assistants months to construct and paint the colossal structure.

Grosse has taken her works all over the world,  including the 1998 Sydney Biennale. This time, thousands have enjoyed her contribution to the Sydney Festival. The artwork offers an experience like no other – unless you happen to have 4 tons of spare canvas, a palette of paint and an abandoned warehouse in your backyard.

This memorable work is a true delight. – Story and photos by Caitlyn Hurley

Katharina Grosse’s fabulous technicolour grotto is open for viewing at Carriageworks until April 8.

Caitlyn Hurley

Caitlyn Hurley

Caitlyn is a Sydney-based journalist who loves story telling in all its forms. When she isn't teaching art classes or figuring out how to be an adult, she's most likely capturing photos of fascinating people.