In their UK debut exhibition, ‘Assembled Spaces’, artists Nina Brauhauser, Ilka Helmig, and Tine Bay Lührssen aim to unsettle our perception of forms in space. Superficial visual appearances are thrown into confusion through precise physical arrangements of objects, images and projections.
The three artists – who live and work between Germany, France and Denmark – are heavily influenced by Danish Situationist artist, Asger Jorn (1914-1973). Jorn’s complex theories on art and life inform their contemporary strategies for making and exhibiting art. In particular, he was interested in the possibilities, or impossibilities, of perception due to his belief in the existence of simultaneous realities.
Brauhauser, Helmig, and Lührssen use stripped-back abstraction, sculptural geometry and playful perspectival arrangements to suggest formal relationships and associations that link their works. Individual works therefore come together forming, what the artists refer to as, ‘spatial modules’. By playing between two and three dimensions – as well as between the space and architecture of the gallery – the artists’ ‘modules’ cause a disconnect between what the eye and mind sees. The experience of viewing their work together in a room appears unstable.
Nina Brauhauser’s work shifts between the appearance of movement and stasis. Switching back and forth between two and three dimensions her scribbled gestures become drawn forms in space and her flat surface drawings pulse with an unexpected sense of depth. By alternating between photography, drawing and sculpture Brauhauser puts pressure on the simple graphic motifs that inhabit her work. She refers to these motifs – loopy black lines scrawled as if in haste – as ‘quotes’. She plucks them from their original drawn context, blows them up, transfers them to three dimensions using aluminium or acrylic, isolates them, photographs them and then repeats the process back again. In doing so she tracks the effect that the multiple transitions between media exert on our perception of the ‘quotes’. The surprising effect is that each version of her scribble feels conflicted, at once more and less real, more and less substantial. They become, paradoxically, drawing, photography and sculpture at once.
Ilka Helmig explores the relationship between scientific and artificial representation. She observes and experiments with biological visual structures using photography, drawing, video and installation. Helmig works very much as might a scientist. She starts with the hypothesis that in biology there is an underlying visual order and that this order can be transferred, or applied to cultural structures too. Some of Helmig’s work for ‘Assembled Spaces’ is the result of a collaboration with Euregionales Comprehensive Cancer Center at Aachen University Hospital. There she was able to study microscopic images of cancer cells, paying close attention to their structural make-up, behaviour and interrelationships. These images appear on the walls of the gallery, enlarged. As black and white abstractions they resemble imaginary moons. But her research at the hospital also informs the structure of her sprawling three-dimensional sculptures. These are made on site especially for the KARST gallery, using everyday materials like wooden beams, dowels, and bendy straws.
Tine Bay Lührssen’s delicately balanced installations, sculptures, drawings and collages combine fragments, everyday forms, architecture and the natural environment to form perspectival puzzles and hyperreal tableaux. For KARST Lührssen has built a black framed structure. Clad in semi-transparent plastic, it calls to mind a pavilion or greenhouse waiting to be filled by people or plants. Nearby, on top of plinths that are shunted up against the gallery’s existent columns, are her dioramas encased in transparent plexiglass. These miniatures stage scenarios that include a combination of human forms, objects and landscapes. She refers to these as ‘rooms of thought’. The significance of these ‘rooms’ remains, however, unresolved. Their titles – Focussing Something, You’ll be back, won’t you?, and Searching Foamed – only add to their ambiguity. Lührssen hopes that each room will trigger different associations for each viewer according to their personal experiences and relationships with history.
Brauhauser, Helmig, and Lührssen’s work for ‘Assembled Spaces’ is intended to be viewed as a whole. When displayed and considered together – overlapping or in clusters, as if in conversation – their ‘spatial modules’ cast light on almost unnoticed connections between photography, drawing, sculpture, and installation. The artists see these as an expansion of each discipline. Much of this expansion arises because of the impact that New Media has had on ways that we see, understand and connect to the world. By combining digital, technological and formal innovation ‘Assembled Spaces’ allows for real and imaginary worlds to intersect, refracting our perception of the relationships between spaces and images.
‘Assembled Spaces’ is initiated by Tine Bay Lührssen, Nina Brauhauser, and Ilka Helmig. It is supported by the Danish Arts Foundation, Ministry of Culture and Science of North Rhine-Westphalia, and Arts Council England.