On the Absurdity of Being

Ulrike Krautheim on the papermaché creatures of Hildegard Skowasch

They look like creatures from another world: these brightly colored papermaché objects of Hildegard Skowasch.

They are vivacious, of intense radiance. The shine of the lacquer, to be sure, indicates they are artificial. This is the shrill language of advertising. We think of pop culture. Artificial vivacity?

In their organic form they are alive, irregular on the surface, and have “grown” according to their own laws.

Not quite a hemisphere, a barrel or a square block, approximating rather accidently basic stereometric forms, these huge self composed forms appear as the pedestals or supports for completely different things.

Irregularties on the surface result from the handmade process, and from the many pieces of roughly torn paper pasted together layer for layer. The folds and wrinkles strengthen the impression that a liquid which was moving a second ago has just froze.

The outer skin of paper and lacquer or acryl paint does not reveal the interior of the papermaché creatures. Hidden from us is their actual inner life, the necessary static construction of wire, stones, paper. What we don’t see is the code which they obey and according to which they were created and have “grown”.

Is the calculable and the well-reckoned, as it affects most of our lives, out?

But no, we discover the well-known in our daily life:

pretty things from the children’s world, like Easter grass or colorful rubber balls, practical every day items, like casters, sockets or plastic tubes.

Since Duchamp’s ready mades, no art observer is shocked anymore. – Everyone can discover the reassuring – because well-known – in the papermaché creatures.

But we who are accustomed to first asking the meaning and purpose of objects, institutions, activities and so on miss the logical functional connection between the pieces. Technical industrial products we use every day are led completly ad absurdum.

What meaning have electro cables and plugs without sockets and electric bulbs?

What are those casters attached to this object? Why aren’t they only attached to the bottom but on the sides, on top and around?

Or: Why does a worm need casters at all? Here technology becomes ornamental.

Other realities aren’t “right”.

Who has ever seen a worm three meters long? In blue?
Does shifting the perspective allow us a more “childlike” view?

Why does a plastic tube encircle an overdimensional “cake”?

And paper as such? An organic substance? Through the layers of acrylic paint it can be felt. The lacquer on the other hand covers everything. Just as the inner life of the paper creatures remains a secret to us, their substance is concealed to the observer.

Intended contrasts and consequent confrontations in color and proportion, in material and in function result in surreal phantastic creatures.

Especially the presumably familiar every-day objects, systematically deprived of their actual function, are irritating and disconcerting – and open up precisely for this reason new perspectives to the open-minded viewer. Sometimes the titles of the works give you a clue: ”missing the normal” is what Hildegard Skowasch calls her 2,80 meter long blue tube, which is studded with 120 casters. The lightness of such titles as “Fine Romance” or “Seestück” and the way they seem to contradict the titled objects encourage the appropriate associations. But they should not nail us down, rather inspire us.

In addition the titles suggest a certain humour: “Fine romance” is the brand name of the wallpaper used and at the same time reflects the poetic character of the object. “Seestück” represents a piece of the sea with two half sunk balls.

Confrontations were always a concern of Hildegard Skowasch. For ten years she has worked with paper and has consequently never used it in its normal sense.

To her own world of amorphous self-composed forms, which are covered with skins of colored paper, she now adds from the outer world mass-produced industrial products of metal or plastics. The confrontation between the inner world and the technical industrial outer world produces art objects whose character is at once strange and familiar. Absurdity or the mirror of an entirely normal daily life?

Inner/outer, organic/artificial, individual/mass-produced – blending the irreconcilable, this is what imparts the creatures of Hildegard Skowasch a sense of humour and, as it were, a certain tragic. She has imbued them with a soul which we observers can awaken.

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