You Have Been Here Sometime
POSTED BY DAVID JOHN
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 4, 2011
YHBHS Interview with Eva Berendes, Pt 1.
“folding screens & paravents”
Paravents: noun, A wind-screen; a shelter from wind.
“Questions of construction and design collapse into one which is also mirrored by the fact that the back side of the works is usually exposed. In fact, that is probably the reason for some works having turned into sculpture, I simply did not want to neglect their back side.“
– Eva Berendes
YHBHS: Eva, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions regarding your work. I’m transfixed by your “screens.” The manner in which the colors and the forms interact. Can you tell me more about how & why they originated?
Eva Berendes: There are various works that you could call screens but I suppose you are addressing the folding screens or “paravents“, 4- or 5- part hinged wooden frames filled with compositions of color fields made from suspended, kind of “woven“ cotton thread. Those fields change a lot in transparency/opacity when you move around them (beside the strong moiree effect) and that makes them very elusive, a quality that made the actual making of them in the studio rather tedious.
I found it hard to find a technique that would render a similar kind of effect to help deciding about the colours by means of a model or a sketch. But to come back to your question, the screens are connected to a number of earlier works of mine, the earliest of them perhaps being a large tie-dye curtain that I did for my MA show in London in 2002.
I had made a couple of paintings with tie-dyed fabric on a strecther and had collaged other, more geometric elements onto them. All of it was part of my experiments with various ways of referencing historical work, back then it was the Russian avant-garde. I was aiming at a peaceful reconciliation of contradictory visual elements and eventually I decided to treat the elements more like two different individuals when I brought them together in one space rather than on a stretcher. Which means that in one way you can relate most of my works back to the matrix of stretcher and canvas. In the screens I am dealing with both these components, a wooden frame and cotton, but have lead them into a more symbiotic relationship.
Questions of construction and design collapse into one which is also mirrored by the fact that the back side of the works is usually exposed. In fact, that is probably the reason for some works having turned into sculpture, I simply did not want to neglect their back side. And then all this is met by strong interest in material culture, craft, the Applied Arts and the beginning of abstract Art.
Or else, perhaps this is just another angle of looking at the same thing.
Pt 2. “material presence”
(read Pt 1 here)
Wood, stain, wool
I can’t help but to imagine your sculptures as an essential element to a room. Are you inspired by interiors, furniture designers, as well as other artists? How do you see your work fitting into this spectrum?
Most of the work I have been interested in operates along the boundary between Fine and Applied Art- Art Deco, Bauhaus, Sonia Delaunay, Constructivism, Supremacism, Arts & Crafts, even Minimalism and other work from the 60’s that is focused on the factual presence of the material.
They all deal with the distinction of “a work“ and “a thing“. Over the past few years I have been looking at Italian design from the 80’s a lot, Memphis and all these groups and individuals surrounding them. I am very impressed with the irreverence, almost innocence in their shaping and colouring objects but also with the earnestness that I hadn’t really been able to recognise in Postmodern work before I encountered them. More recently I started to look at some 1970’s/ 80’s Japanese architecture. I just find it really inspiring how few conflicts these elegant mixtures of Modern, Postmodern and traditional Japanese influences reveal in spite of drawing from these contradictory references.
Metal, brass, varnish
My own work I would clearly position within the realm of Fine Arts as I don’t make anything that is meant to be used or even things that resemble functional things. I do often make works which approximate to things that are commonly associated with craft or decoration, like screens, curtains, wallhangings, etc.. However, I am not aiming at transgressing the boundaries towards the Applied Arts. It’s more that the works address the concept of the distinction between the two categories and their implications which bring up relevant questions about material presence, the potential metaphysical dimension of an object and how this manifests itself, and the genealogy of abstract language in general. And it enables me to take a side path towards painting which is still at the core of what I do.
More so than historical references, Constructivism, Art Deco, Bauhaus: Anni Albers that are apparent in your practice, I feel there is almost a ghostly presence that is present in the faded color palette and your choice of material.
Do you believe in ghosts, or the afterlife?
I like your impression of my works exerting a presence of unsubstantiality very much, it is such a nice paradox. However, I don’t associate that unsubstantiality with ghosts or the afterlife, I think I am lacking the fantasy for that. I am more for dry approaches.
Your curtains bring to mind the work of an artist Felix Gonzalez Torres, and his series of curtains, and wall dividers. His work to me speaks about loss and the fragility and quickness of life. In “Jasmine and Trellis” there is such a quiet strength, and spirituality to these works, that is so powerful. What is the motivation behind these works?
The curtain was part of an ensemble of works made for a solo show I named Jasmine & Trellis after a tapestry design by William Morris. I always liked the idea of a backdrop or a piece that functions as an abstract drawing but also as exhibition design. The gallery space in Frankfurt has big windows facing the street that I think you can either go with or agaist. For Jasmine & Trellis I transformed the space into a more intimate, domestic, cabinet-like space by means of the curtains and grey wall paint which dimmed the reflections of the glossy floor in there and gave the whole show an introverted, quiet and private atmosphere.
An important aspect of those curtains, but also the screens, the new silk pieces and even new the perforated steel sculptures, is their semi- transparence. The works are constantly being animated by their surroundings. I use this recurring motif in my work to break the rigidity of the abstraction and to attribute it with this sort of unsubstantiality you mentioned which could be a metaphor for many things. It could be doubt or modesty or conflicting thoughts, like saying something and taking it back at the same time. Or about transition and penetration between things, ideas, etc..
How important is the space in which you show your work? Is there a conversation in your mind about the architecture of the space and the work in which you bring to it?
The space is of course always very important, a starting point to roughly think about the type, the scale, the number and the position of the works. I try to make use of the space so it can resonate with the works and vice versa. Sometimes I have a point of reference for it, say the idea of a shop like in Silk, Grids & Souvenirs in which everything was facing the window and the sculptures resembled architectural display elements. Which was kind of the opposite of what I did for Jasmine & Trellis which took place at the same gallery. The architecture of the exhibition space has so far only been an issue as it is a condition for the works to appear and determines the atmosphere and the choreography of their perception. Not more and certainly not less than that.