As part of this year’s Regionale 15, Kunsthalle Basel is delighted to present the group show form follows form follows form, featuring new and existing works by Jonas Baumann, Samuli Blatter, Christian Falkner, Corsin Fontana, Andreas Frick, Lucie Gmünder, Daniel Göttin, Gert Handschin, Emanuel Rossetti and Petra Soder.
Patterns, determined by their cultural context, possess the capacity to be read and interpreted like texts and thus establish complex relationships among themselves and between their creators and viewers. The history and variety of the pattern as employed in the most diverse cultures and the most wide-ranging areas, such as textiles, painting, book illustration, ceramics, architecture, furniture and fashion, thereby becomes the thematic starting point of the show. Within the framework of the exhibition, which is being held in the Kunsthalle’s lower galleries, the ten artists from Basel and the surrounding area are showing paintings, drawings, videos, prints and objects that take up – each in their own individual way – patterns, textures and structures.
Alongside the question of its artistic execution, the configuration of a pattern on a surface is of great significance: social and cultural traditions, values and tastes influence the design of patterns and thereby reflect natural and man-made spaces. Deploying languages that are figurative and abstract to varying degrees, the works by the ten artists exhibit patterns and structures that produce a certain effect upon the viewer. Thus ideas are developed and communicated that draw upon the artist’s own experience and yet are able to evoke collective memories in the viewer.
The exhibition title can be read as a kind of extension of architect Louis Sullivan’s now popular axiom, “form follows function”. As a literary repetition, form follows form follows form echoes the basic structure of a pattern and at the same time makes reference to the successive presentation of different artistic positions within the five galleries at Kunsthalle Basel.
Gert Handschin’s works seem to go back to Constructivist principles in architecture and art, invoking the latter’s characteristic vocabulary of simple, geometrically ordered elements. In terms of their basic shape, the 1m² Mdf schwarz (2014) series of black objects by the Basel artist, displayed in Room 1, confine themselves (as their title tells us) to a square metre section of black MDF. Handschin is concerned with probing the limits of his material and so transforms the MDF boards into new formats by means of cuts and folds. Despite their formal reduction, the objects thereby assume a seemingly organic quality. The site-specific arrangement of the objects allows them to fuse into a single pattern that nevertheless allows the openness of the space. Through his sculptures, Handschin imposes a structure upon the gallery that appears clearly formulated and yet is able to alter surfaces into rhythmically animated spaces, thus influencing the way in which the room is experienced by the viewer.
Samuli Blatter’s practice extends from filigree and large-format drawings to site-specific installations. At Kunsthalle Basel the Lucerne-based artist is showing four graphite drawings from his series Zero (2013). The works appear to follow the principle of a clear language of signs, and yet fleeting moments and movements can also be plainly recognized. Blatter uses drawing as a medium in which to pursue and develop trains of thought. Despite the intuitive processes underlying them, these formal studies of fragmentary disintegration and its reconstruction repeatedly testify to a logical application of abstraction. The artist’s handling of his pencil and the structures it creates remain clearly visible at all times and thus place material and technique in the foreground. Captivated by the interplay of gravity and weightlessness, emptiness and fullness, creation and destruction, the viewer lingers long in front of Blatter’s drawings, whose impression is light and open and yet at the same time oppressively dark.
Emanuel Rossetti presents a series of existing works that have already been seen in public and which show objects resembling ring doughnuts, apparently floating against a coloured background. Rossetti photographs marble surfaces – a bistro table in the Café Odeon, the marble paving of Zurich’s main railway station, a wall of Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion – or employs found material from the Internet and manipulates these images on the computer. The textures of the different marbles are incorporated into the geometric shape of a torus – a form that Rossetti uses as a readymade. The contours of the doughnut-like ring and the veins of the stone remain recognizable and become a product that reflects, in a distilled fashion, the respective location of the original marble. The series is accompanied by the work NO (2014), that was created by Rossetti in collaboration with Zurich artist Tobias Madison and which may here be understood as part of an installation.
In Room 2, Jonas Baumann is showing a selection of drawings, paintings, prints, objects and a new video work. Baumann belongs to the first generation to take its earliest steps in digital as well as analog playgrounds and in his oeuvre we sense the artist’s urge not simply to accept virtuality but also to localize and document it. In Analog Virtuality (2013/14) the artist explores the divide between tactile, analog painting and the virtual, digital images behind our screens. His pictures call to mind computer-generated renderings that, once translated into paint, seem flawed and far from perfect. Baumann furthermore sees himself as a researcher who examines objects that are recognizable as historical artefacts. These include masks, sculptures and fabrics, which he represents in varying shapes and textures. Baumann pursues this interest yet further in his video piece A Touch of Vacuum (2014), in which he plays with the artificially generated form in the example of textile folds. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the wooden object, which seem to have leapt straight out of his paintings. His artistic practice is constantly driven by the “dissonant harmony” arising within his works.
The works by Daniel Göttin on display in Rooms 3 and 4 focus upon form and colour. Luminous monochrome hues dominate the wood support, which is cut to size with geometrical precision. The artist does not use an industrial spray gun but applies his paint directly and thereby alters our perception of these objects: when looked at more closely, they assume an emphatically painterly character due to the visibility of their brushstrokes. The formal repetitions generated via the compositional means of duplication, halving and addition create a kind of architectural pattern that accentuates the gallery space. Support and painting are thereby placed on an equal footing and together transform the image into an object. To describe the work of the Basel artist in terms of colour field painting would therefore be inaccurate; rather, it is a pared-down form of sculpture.
On the opposite wall, mounted around the corner of the room, Petra Soder is showing her large-format work on paper, mit dem Letzten vom Sommer. 8.10.14 (2014), specially created for the exhibition. The abstract drawing, which at first sight appears restless and wild, is lent a poetic quality by its simplicity and light colours. Soder here works neither with a brush nor a pen, but with flowers and plants that she finds in her surroundings, depending on the season, and which thus determine the texture and structure of the coloured marks left on the support. As soon as the pigments were dry, the artist sealed her composition in airtight and light-proof packaging and only unrolled it on the day the exhibition was set up. This is also the reason why the colours are matt. Over the course of the exhibition, oxidation will cause the hues of the former blooms to gradually fade and alter. What remains are traces that no more than hint at the wealth and spectrum of nature’s flora. In this way Petra Soder creates a landscape painting that is a memento mori rather than a faithful reproduction. Where the flowers came from and what the landscape actually looked like is known only to the artist.
Lucie Gmünder is showing a selection of new paintings that have been created for the Kunsthalle exhibition. The works subdivide into abstract compositions and fields of more or less monochrome colour. The monochromes may be read as setting the mood, whereas the abstract paintings appear more animated and establish the direction of movement. For her palette, the artist chooses an indigo blue – in places almost black – that embodies nocturnal, moonless darkness and which is lent intensity and depth by the visible structure of the brushwork. The colour itself radiates a duality that can also be extended to the works themselves. It stands for proximity and distance and likewise for day and night. Gmünder is equally interested in what takes place between these abstract and monochrome paintings when they are combined. The way in which each element is perceived changes as a result of this presentation, as does the form of the work. Gmünder’s interest in detail also emerges in her drawings. Here, too, we can recognize two groups, one comprising fine, gossamer drawings that represent abstract forms and the other denser works that appear monochrome when seen from a distance.
Entering Room 5, the visitor’s eye is immediately drawn to the luminously colourful floor works by German artist Christian Falkner. The starting point of Falkner’s paintings and prints are digital photographs, most of them characterized by their poor quality. These quick, spontaneous photographs, being more genuine and less controlled, have the potential to capture memories and moods in optimum fashion and serve the artist as visual sketches for his works. The object to be recorded or the moment to be captured thereby often recedes into the background, while unintentional factors such as blurring, bright gleams, or dull or harsh lighting conditions come to the fore. At Kunsthalle Basel Falkner is showing two large floor works under the title And in between the Singing of Crickets (2014), each consisting of smaller prints that have been arranged on site into large mosaics. The prints are produced using the offset technique, whereby the inks are applied directly onto the roller intuitively by the artist and then printed on thin aluminium plates. Falkner proceeds to orchestrate the resulting colour sequences into an abstract visual carpet, arriving at a blurred colour construct that presents an astonishingly continuous pattern despite its composition of individual pieces. With And in between the Singing of Crickets, Falkner broadens the viewer’s sphere of perception and thereby contributes to the constitution of memory.
Corsin Fontana was invited by Kunsthalle Basel to take part in the exhibition form follows form follows form without submitting a dossier, since bold patterns and structures have long been a central feature of the artist’s oeuvre. Patterns are made up of interrelated elements presenting themselves as repeated, alternating and symmetrical shapes. A pattern of this kind is created by Fontana’s 22-part series Mit gleichem Abstand (2005/2006), whose components are hung at regular intervals along a horizontal line. Interrupted by slight disturbances and shifts, they create a powerfully rhythmical image that seems to be in motion and sets a tempo. Sequential elements play a role of primary importance in many of Fontana’s works, as do the thickness with which he applies his oil pastel and the materiality he thus lends to his graphic medium. The creative process highlighted in this way also comes strongly to the fore in the untitled works Ohne Titel (Nr.09) (2012) and Ohne Titel (2014). In contrast to the seemingly almost empty series of drawings, the individual layers of paint are here laid down one by one, constantly renewed and then scraped away, until the heavily condensed composition is complete. The slow genesis of each picture – protracted by lengthy drying times – can almost be described as a kind of ritual, in which Fontana repeatedly makes new incursions into the arising work. The patterns in Fontana’s pictures, although presenting an emphatically stylized appearance, have their roots in a rich body of sources, influences and ideas that ensure the rich continuity of the artist’s painterly oeuvre.
When seen from a distance, the six photogravures in the series Gucun II (2013) by the Basel-based artist Andreas Frick also yield an optical pattern. At the level of both form and content, however, this dissolves as we draw closer and recognize the photograph underlying the work, which shows reeds of different lengths in water. The photogravure technique here utilized by Frick is a photo-mechanical process through which photographs can be reproduced and genuine halftones represented. Therefore finest structures and textures become visible in the work and reinforce the poetic and delicate effect of the motif. The seemingly abstract paintings in the Lido (2014) and schwarz sehen (2014) series deploy a somewhat different pictorial language and concentrate upon subtle gradations of whites and blacks. Something similar can be seen in the photogravure là haut/en bas (2011), which by cropping a photograph of the stairwell in the artist’s studio renders its motif abstract and thus transforms the stairs and the lighting conditions into a non-figurative black-and-white pattern. Through this abstraction of their motifs, Frick’s works carry an encrypted visual language infused with the inner experiences and memories of the artist and are able to trigger associations in the viewer that leave permanent traces.
form follows form follows form brings together a selection of artists who engage in their work with the generation of forms and with patterns and structures, and who reveal a profound interest in the subject and its diversity. Can the material as such be read as a form and to what extent is an artistic intervention necessary in order to create forms?
The exhibition was curated by Mara Berger and Fabian Schöneich.
Installation views: Serge Hasenböhler, Kunsthalle Basel, 2014
Graphic Design Poster: Nadine Rinderer