Text by Chrissie Iles

Axial Age is the title of a series of seven paintings completed by the influential German artist Sigmar Polke between 2005 and 2007. With his camera, Polke created a fascinating photo documentary of the painting process, including 187 images specially selected by the artist to be featured in this book. Each image is reproduced as a high-quality, full-page color plate. By revealing the materiality and structural complexity of the works from a variety of perspectives and under different lighting conditions, Polke provides the reader with analogies to his oeuvre that are as explicit as they are unique. The title Axial Age is a reference to the term coined by Karl Jaspers to describe the period between 800 BC and 200 BC, during which the world was reinvented based on the principle of transcendence--a concept that finds full expression in this series of paintings. Polke makes use of a broad range of materials in his work, including varnishes and pigments, photographic chemicals, gold and silver, lapis lazuli and malachite--all references to alchemistic processes of transformation. Indeed, with these extensions of painterly techniques, the artist undermines the picture itself, for any shift in perspective or lighting is accompanied by a change in the painting's appearance.