ON REX`S WORKS IN GENERAL
Through the years Eske Rex has developed a body of work where practices from architecture, art, design and craft are intertwined and unfolded within sculpture and installation. The works of art stems despite their clear and ethereal expression therefore from a more complex origin. They often take their point of departure in one or two main materials, that are then worked to the limits of its inherent ability; fabric is stretched and wood split to the point of breach and their primary characteristics are laid bare in the demonstration of the condensed definite matter. Simple and stylistic they are cleaned and processed of excess elements which gives space for you to concentrate on experiencing those materials which the works are made of. Of the same reason the works gives of what can be refer to as a found poetic silence in their presence. They are carried by a conceptual idea, the materials and the craftmanslike layer, and are decidedly discursive in their analogue and apolitical statements. It has the effect of a paradoxal experience of both touching contemporary arts present fetichism with materiality, and that the poetic and timeless aesthetic at the same time sets the work outside any given time. Works such as Unfolded Plank, Vorschub and Pull are pieces in series which examines the effects of force caused by tension between materials and them and space. They are overextended, streched, split and placed on the verge of collapse. The pieces of art have concurrent statements which makes the communication thereof minimal. There are no stated explanations – al transfer of information happens on a aesthetic and sensuous level. The traces of craft and attention to materials ability to sensuously combine the tangible and near with metaphysical essential and universal matters, such as seen in the work Retrium. Made specifically to Koldinghus Retrium is an atrium turned inwards builed of scorched wood that formes a silo hold by rods of reinforcement iron and sturdy iron closures, which as barbed wire around the rotunda is part of forming a dark enclosure. The piece is both a reference to the history of the site as a fortification and the fire in 1808 which left it in ruins, and a heavy symbol of perishableness, the forces of nature and the inner/outer sides of man. The symbolic layer contextualises and connects the installation to the site, while its spatial functions and its element of craft presents Rex´s pragmatic sense and background as a carpenter. The simple materials reflects universal states of mind and situations and links the piece to a metaphysical world, while the crafts distinct imprints opens up for a present and intimate character. Motion is essential in Rex´ works. Even the stagnant such as Tensioned Wood have a shape and a material which provides a svung and animates the space they are in. It seems to be the material in itself and the tension which Rex creates working with the material, that can be felt when one is near it. There exists a strenght in the work which gives them an identity; an own-ness. The kinetic pieces such as Space-Meter, Measuring Space and Flugt have a lightness and are in constant dialogue with their surroundings, but on a sensuous and spatial level and are therefore contextual in a entirely different way than for example the relational arts context in working with social relations. The traces of design are from time to time seen in the character of the works as objects, while the element of architecture is visible in their spatial orientation. The practices normally common orientation towards containing a functionalism is often toned down with Rex, and the laws of physics and its founding effect on our common univers are the governing principles in the work. Gravity, magnetism, friction and the mathematical principle of the golden proportionalities are explored in series of works. They are about the effect of forces and the dynamic between the individual components of the pieces and the variable element: the visitor. It is for example seen in Space Meter where a wooden trumpet with an embedded magnet is suspended by a string fixed in a wall in the space and the attraction of the magnet against a hung metalplate on the opposite wall. The trumpet hovers a few centimeters apart from the metalplate; vibrates with the visitors movements in the space and treatens to loose the magnetic connection to the metalplate and fall to the ground. The feeling of a point of breach is caused by an almost electric field manifested by magnetic force and the human effect and emanates a sensibility and attention around the objects in the space. Rex shares traits with some of the artists of modernism by a mutual focus on simplicity in choice of materials and themes and an abstract idiom which outlines universal figures and only in few cases with references to existing known shapes, as for example the bird with Constantin Brancusi or the mask in Divided Self with Rex. A classical sculpture represents something. Eske Rex more often presents something. As Alexander Calders mobiles in metal, Rex shapes movement, gravity and force as well as he forms the material, and the material becomes a means to frame and activate these effects of forces. The modernistic sculpture was about the simple shape and the clear expression. Before then the majority of artists had sought to hide their material rather than demonstrate it, for example through casts. The road to modernism happened amongst others by reestablishing the utilization of orthodox materials and their characteristics. Constantin Brancusi was excellent at this by, in his simple and straight forward manner to apply the different tactilities of the surfaces and show character traits in the materials in preference to simulating. Rex prolonges a minimalist tradition wherein the inherent characteristics of the materials are partaking in the aesthetics and the limitations of the piece and workingwith conventional natural materials. While Brancusi is the sculptor who carves images out of the materials, Rex shapes the sculpture without the weight of the mass. Both have an inherent movement in their objects. Where Rex is working with the framework and Brancusi the massive body, it is in the compositions essential to se Rex work in relation to Calders poetic shapes in his mobiles. With the winds unknown influence to the wings of the mobiles there is something left to fortuitousness with Calder, and it is through Calder and Brancusis slipstream that we should see Rex.
Nina Wöhlk, 2015
Unfolded Plank (front view). Oak. 280 x 25 x 40 cm. 2010
Pull. Oak, found unknown wood, metal. 170 x 100 x 90 cm. 2010
Divided Self is a series of works consisting of split slender wooden figures in various ovale shapes, created by glued shells with the assembling line visible in the perifery, In each of the shells bottom a magnet is embedded, which, with their mutual collective powers, are forcing the parts towards each other, while two strings with fixation in respectively the spaces floor and ceiling, is spanning the shells and keeping them separate with a few centimeters apart.
The pairs are cut from one single piece of wood and can be seen as having been one unit, as the growth rings of the tree runs across the split. Simultaneously the two separate parts are supported by the magnets which, influenced by the visitors presence in the space, makes the installation rotate and vibrate. Due to the rotation a perpetual fragmentation of the form is happening, followed by a returning to the whole briefly after. The kinetic influence and the two pieces mutual dance does that you without much effort see the works from different sides, and new assertions and images are constantly being produced in the interaction between upper and lower part.
With its ovale shape the sculpture is perceived as a face, where for example a knot in the present work (nr.01) becomes a birthmark, but generally the geometric pure shape and silent mimic gives more references to modernisms language of form, than to the expressive masks of primitivism.
The installation is a further elaboration of the series of works by the name Measuring Space, but differentiates themselves from the work in Measuring Space and their round centralised forms by being experienced as having a front and a backside, which you as a perceiver can “face”. The title Divided Self refers to a split shape – a “halved self”, and the general human feeling of holding multiple personalities (1), - as for example expressed in sociologi in the shift between private and public sphere (2).
(1) RD. Laing. The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness, 1960
(2) Habermas, Jürgen: The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, 1962
Nina Wöhlk, 2015
Divided Self 01. Oak, leash, magnets. 26 x 14 x 6 cm. 2014
Measuring Space 01. Oak, magnets, leash. Five elements, each 23 x 14 cm. Installed at Modtar Projects, Copenhagen 2012
“IT’S THE RATIONAL VERSUS THE IRRATIONAL”
Interview and text by Rasmus Folehave Hansen, 2015
Eske Rex is a craftsman. Or an artist, depending how you look at it. Educated as a carpenter, he also studied design, and now combines his skills in creating sculptures and installations based on his studies of natural forces.In Eske Rex’s workshop at Amager, he is surrounded by wood, tools and sketches. Here, he is in the process of figuring out how to present his work at the Mindcraft15 design fair in Milan in April. Prototypes of his streamlined wooden shapes hang suspended from the ceiling, each split in half and held apart by opposing magnets. Entitled Divided Self, the concept is a simple, yet clever take on fundamental laws of nature. The shapes are perfectly crafted, with much attention given to the material itself. Think of the Danish masters of furniture, had they chosen to persue art instead.
“I don’t cut into a large block of wood with a chisel like a sculptor would; I manufacture the elements separately. They are shaped with a lathe, cut, sanded, and reassembled,” Eske says about his work process. “Some would argue that art is something you look at, design is something you use, and architecture is something you go inside of. I’m attracted to all three.”
He pulls out two wooden frames being skewed in space by the diagonal pull of a string. The force twists the flat shape into a three-dimensional object. It’s simple and effective, like everything in Eske’s artistic sphere.
“It usually begins with a principle of some kind,” he says. “Here, it’s the pull of the string, in the drawing machine it’s the pendulum, in Divided Self it’s magnetism: fundamental concepts that I wish to express in different ways. And there’s always an element of suspense. If I tighten the string too much, the frames will break. If I push the halves of Divided Self apart, the magnetism will lose its strength; and too much weight on the arm spoils the drawing machine. The breaking point gives a kind of dynamic to an otherwise static object. It creates a sense of ‘what if’.”
Eske’s drawing machine consists of two large wooden structures, each holding a pendulum. Their rhythmic movements are transferred to the tip of a regular ball point pen, which must move across the paper with exactly the right amount of pressure, like the stylus on a record player. With the machine set to run several layers on top of each other, the ink grows denser, interference patterns emerge, and splashes of colour and paper lint beget unpredictable events of beauty.
“The drawing machine stems from my fascination with movement. It illustrates the connection between movement and time. I suppose it resonates with people, because we are drawn to natural cycles like star trails, galactic movements, and ocean waves. And just like watching these phenomena in nature, the machine is somewhat trance-inducing. The machine is beautiful, and what it does is beautiful.”
That sure sounds like art. How do you balance it with your daily work?
“When I do my regular carpenting work, it’s very straightforward. The customer pays me to build whatever they need. In my studio it’s about feeling and experimenting, and I have come to realise that I need both in my life. So it’s not even a question of money.
I might be able to make a living off my art, but I also need the normality. It’s the rational versus the irrational.”
Monitor magazine interview 2012 by Anna Yudina
In 2011, Eske Rex’s Drawing Machine occupied the entire basement floor of the Mindcraft space in Milan. A showcase for the long-lasting dialog between design and craft in Denmark, for the last two years Mindcraft has been curated by Cecilie Manz who chose to center the exhibition concept on quality, materiality and functionality – a statement, which, in her opinion, sums up the essence of Danish-ness in design. The Drawing Machine presented itself as a somewhat rustic device consisting of two wooden structures, each supporting a pendulum with stone weights, set in motion by hand. The pendulums were connected to a ballpoint pen through «drawing arms»; their motion translated into the pen’s circular movements across a vast spread of paper. This was definitely a story of functionality – dealt with in a manner that is as direct as can be. A cup or a chair can (should) be functional because we use them for specific tasks, but the Machine was simply about functioning. About defining the proportions of the device and adjusting the weights, smartly hooked on the side of the supporting frame for instant availability. About pushing the pendulums so that their coordinated movement will produce a drawing. About transmitting an effort from man to mechanism to pen. Apparently, this attitude towards function comes from an interest in natural forces that galvanize the object with dynamics and tension, and in different kinds of reproducing natural phenomena. This year, Manz suggested Eske Rex to explore the theme of gravity. The new Mindcraft exhibition was laid out along two parallel walls, and Rex had to provide a connection between them. In search for a minimalist solution, the artist turned to magnetic power, which held in suspension a thread stretched across the room and terminated by a wooden trumpet nearly touching the opposite wall. At the beginning, you were only impressed by the thinness and length of the thing that stretched across a 5-6 m span, and only then you realized that it actually floated in the air, leaving a gap between the object and the wall – a connection that turned out to be a non-connection. Eske Rex has placed himself between three fields: art, design and architecture (he studied both art and design). Add to this an experience in carpentry – hence the interest in scale and construction. «Not that I am trying to connect them all; that’s just the way I am,» says Rex who needs an outlet for experimenting somewhere on the border between the functional and the unrestricted by pragmatic concerns; between designing precisely calculated structures and working with the forces he can only control to a certain extent. «Nature comes in here. A swinging pendulum can do something I could not have done even if I were a skilled draftsman or a computer geek; the nature still does it better. And then, it has this fantastic poetic feel: you can work, and think, and sketch, and build – and then you launch it and just see it happen. No two drawings will be the same; the machine will always work differently depending on how you start it, or how much weight you apply to the pendulum.» The «end product» of the Machine may be the drawing but the star of the show is obviously the device that has produced it. «When you exhibit drawings alone, there is always this question of where they come from; it is clear that these forms are not created by a computer, but one also feels that they are not hand drawn. To me, the Drawing Machine is both a tool and a moving sculpture, an installation in space. When it’s not on show I use it for making further experiments.» While the greyscale Fibonacci series deals with interference patterns whose complexity increases the longer the machine works on them, the new set of drawings explores colour gradients. Rex relates these experiments to Joseph Albers’ investigations into the nature of colour and movement. Then again, large-scale drawings become a spatial experience, which varies with the distance between the viewer and the artwork, revealing its finesse as you get closer. And from here, there is just one step to researching into the possibilities of cooperation between art and architecture. What would Eske Rex do if commissioned to create some site-specific art for an architectural project? – He would prefer to be there from the start instead of designing an art piece for an already completed space. He needs «to play with the program, to work together with architects on the dimensions of the space and the way it is developed…» This will be a kind of incorporated art, maybe with a specific function, «because art can really be functional. It can show the way, or make a space stronger.»
Drawing Machine #2. Larchwood, Metal, Vinyl, paper, pen. 250 x 450 x 450 cm. Installed at MINDCRAFT 11, Milan, 2011. Photo: Julie Heering
Black Drawing. (made with Drawing Machine 01) Ballpen on paper, 272 x 272 cm, 2010
34 layers. (from the Fibonacci series) ballpen on paper, 151 x 151 cm, 2010
Spacemeter. Ashwood, metal, leash, magnets. Spanning 6 m across the room (this photoshopped image does not show the actual lengh) Photo by Jeppe Gudmundsen Holmgren. 2012
Insatalation view from the exhibition “Silent action” at Gallerie Maria Wettergren, Paris 2013