Anne Rodler, 2009
Into the magic garden of sculpture.
The work of Ulrike Kessl
The work of Ulrike Kessl is a constant exploration of the relationship
between person and space, between space and body. This concept is felt
like a pulse, like a constantly beating heart. And the artist creates in
this way with her organic objects a very special cosmos of
relationships: her objects penetrate into existing spaces, exploring and
transforming them into the interior of an organism. This is contrasted
with works that entice us into the most minute structures of the human
body or plants, anatomic studies, works of drawing, photographs and
textiles, exploring the delicacy of body structures and their inner
nature. Whether tissue or cellular structure of living creatures,
spatial designs or fabrics of a building – the artist always brings our
attention to the anatomic and the architectural.
This catalogue presents Ulrike Kessl’s objects and installations from the years 2001 to 2009 in dialogue with select drawings from her “Organ Garden” group of works (2003), published here for the first time. A garden represents nature as formed by human hand. A place of tamed flowers and plants, it provides us with a refuge, a place of sensuality, of pause, an occasion for observant contemplation. In the garden of organs, nature presents itself in its carefully crafted beauty. The studied, objective appearance of naturalness, however, is deceptive, as the plants here are fused with human organs into fanciful structures. Ulrike Kessl seems to be playing on biological research into genetic engineering, and beyond that on human attempts to dominate and control nature. The artist is at the same time recalling certain medieval notions, and the conceit that formal analogies between plants and human body parts confer related medicinal effects. Through their special enchantment, these creatures bring us into the world of the magic and the surreal.
This creative and imaginative idea can be seen in the spatial object “Playpen” (2001), the form of which corresponds to the two hemispheres of the human brain and which becomes an explorable sculpture for small children at an exhibition. Material experience, mental and physical movement are here contrasted with the visual representation of nerve tracts and cerebral memory cells. Another object amenable to interactive and haptic experience is the seating group “Polströ” (2001), representing an oversized digestive tract.
The palpable surface and the hidden inner structure, skin, organs and skeleton of living creatures and things are taken by Ulrike Kessl and repeatedly combined into different, evocative, combinations. She realises this in her artistic language by means of various collages of defamiliarised objects, materials and pieces of clothing. Cloths are transformed into space, articles of clothing into bodies.
Nylon stockings formed over balloons become, for example, the starting point for objects that suggest first of all inverted female torsos. The artist then composes from these a group of fabulous, brightly coloured creatures with the title “Feerinden” (2008/ 2009), which again raises questions concerning the interior and the exterior. Stability and fragility, covering and volume are also investigated in the work “Skirt Columns” (2003). A series of skirts fixed on top of one another form long columns that separate the room. They evoke architectural elements, the supporting function of which is, however, not fulfilled.
The use of textiles is a recurring leitmotif in the repertoire of the sculptress. She uses them as structuring and colour elements, in which they also become the “material” of the aesthetic experiment. Textile techniques are moreover also transferred to other materials, an idea tangibly rendered in the curtain made of invitation cards (2006). Here, postcards were cut up, mixed and then sewn together again. This curtain served as an element of interior architecture to drape the entrance to the Goethe Institute in Rabat, to which it also directly referred. Visitors had to pass it before entering the exhibition and the rooms of the cultural institute, during which they were also able to read snippets of information from the cards close up. We encounter here the constantly present urge to combine drawings, photographs and layouts with plastic bodies and architectural structures – through physical interaction, the surface is fused into the body, the 2- into the 3-dimensional.