Andrea Wolfensberger – Nature Studies
21 March to 15 May 2021
Fungi form their cells in the shape of rings, as a flower, star or oval web, but also in crystalline needles. It is no coincidence that Andrea Wolfensberger has an eye for the diverse appearances of growing mycelia. For years, she has occupied herself with the phenomenology of natural movements, the defining rhythms inherent to them and their inner structure. For example, the so-called “Soundwaves” of digital recordings became a score in her studio. Wolfensberger released sound from the strictures of linear interpretive models in order to provide it with body and space. The observations that the artist measures, reconstructs and commits to selected materials transform themselves into another nature before our eyes.
Is there not an architectural structure of exemplary stability and permeability hidden within a wasp’s nest? Is the honeycomb not simultaneously a prototype for cover and core? With a great deal of work done by hand, Andrea Wolfensberger makes fragments of existing natural enclosures like these her own. With its internal undulation, fibre cement is obliging as she enlarges them: after all, it adds its own openings to every hollow and every bulge. Depending on the cut made through this industrially manufactured material and the perspective of our gaze, a “Wespennest” (Wasp’s nest) can present itself more as a bowl or as a web. Depending on our vantage point, we see the “Chaoswabe” (Chaos-comb) as the result of erosive winds or the starting point and nucleus of a growth that has just begun. The sculptures derived from audio recordings are also defined by the internal structure of regular curves. Everything is rhythm and pulse in the layered corrugated cardboard, presenting itself as a honeycomb, as a vibrating texture or as a framework extending out into sharp points. Positive and negative, becoming and passing away, coming and going are reconciled and become intertwined.
In depicting mycelia, Wolfensberger does not permit chance to affect the materiality either. Precious silver stabilises their organic growth. At the same time, the alternation between oxidised and brightly gleaming supports seeks to prevent our gaze from ever completely coming to rest. In beeswax the delicate structures remain on the threshold between liquid and solid. The artist responds to the view through the microscope and into a Petri dish (the small, glass containers for microorganisms to be viewed through the microscope in the laboratory) with the image of a knotted rug. Here the “Growing Mycelia” has expanded into a topography, a territory whose edges extend out and crumble into the sea. And while this art is based on the mobility of bodies, the back and forth of voices or the rising and falling of waves, it incorporates micro- as well as macrocosmic laws within itself.
Wolfensberger’s “Naturstudien” (Nature studies) are juxtaposed here with works by Alfonso Fratteggiani, Marcia Hafif, Nicole Hassler, Joseph Marioni and Rémy Zaugg. In this way, painting and sculpture enter into an alliance. Both occupy themselves with the foundations of perception; both store knowledge about the connections between material, body and sound; and both provide our gaze with something to think about.
Isabel Zürcher, February 2021
translation : Michael Wetzel