The diverse body of work Ingeborg Lüscher has produced over her career is telling of an artist unafraid to experiment. Painting, sculpture, photography, installation and video all form part of her extensive artistic output. Born in Frieberg in 1936, Lüscher gained pre-eminence in 1972 for her installation at Documenta V. She has since enjoyed a fruitful career, and continues to exhibit alongside the pioneers of post-war conceptual art.
By eschewing the systematic approach that underpins conceptual art as it was originally conceived, Lüscher’s work retains an element of surprise and chance. Previous works have seen the artist invite friends, neighbours, and colleagues to perform a “magic” act in front of her camera, resulting in an enigmatic collection of photographs, with Andy Warhol and Ai Wei Wei both having stood before her lens. Through her art she has also addressed politics, with recent works focusing on the Israeli-Palestine conflict and the Iraq war. Together with her conceptual approach to everyday objects, her oeuvre is consistently probing and inquisitive.
White Rainbow Gallery is currently hosting Lüscher’s first, and long overdue, solo exhibition in the UK, entitled It’s 1 o’ Clock and the Bell tolls 8 times. Providing international artists with much deserved recognition is integral to the gallery’s aim. Since first opening its doors in 2014, the space has celebrated some of the most important Japanese artworks of the post-war period, whilst underscoring their relevance to ongoing artistic practices.
Although of Swiss-German descent, Lüscher’s approach resonates with the Japanese works that the White Rainbow has built its reputation on displaying. An array of biomorphic sculptures are presented on rectangular pillars at the gallery’s front, as though obscure specimens for viewers to inspect. They demonstrate a similar fixation with the surface texture, organic forms and mixed media sculpture of Japanese art, specifically the Mona-Ha movement. In appearing as though excavated objects, the sculptures blur the line between creation and appropriation.
The paintings, by contrast, are charaterised by their rigid geometricity, with vast expanses of paint on monumental canvases harking back to the masterworks of Abstract Expressionism. All the works on display were created with sulphur and ash; the brilliant yellow and black producing bold juxtapositions of light and dark. Lüscher treats light as though it were a sculptable material; transforming it into something tangible through the grainy texture of the ash and sulphur pigments blended into the acrylic paint.
Aligned with the artist’s preoccupation with the natural world, the paintings here conjure up the qualities of fire; reinforced by the sulphur and ash. Viewed together, the works show art’s capacity to mirror natural processes through abstraction. In this sense, the exhibition attributes Lüscher with further credentials, propounding her legacy as both an artist and an alchemist.
See Ingeborg Lüscher’s work at White Rainbow until January 21st.
Words / Daisy Schofield
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