Magali Reus’ sculptural practice is grounded in the recognisable and everyday; celebrating the often overlooked objects of domestic living as ‘personalities’ in their own right, she aims for her sculpture to create ‘a real experience of the world’. For the exhibition Particle of Inch in The Calder Wakefield, a former 19th century textiles mill, Reus has created two new series of work housed within a specially constructed architectural space, which simultaneously both responds to its new surroundings, whilst also opposing them.
In the series ‘In Place Of’ (2015), plates, mugs, coat hangers and kitchen utensils – the debris of domestic activity – are carefully placed on floor based modular structures resembling the form of the street curb. Although these domestic objects closely resemble the sleek, mass produced products of homeware catalogues and department stores, they have in fact been individually handcrafted by Reus using techniques of casting, moulding and airbrushing. In their examination of the flaws and realities of modern living, a sense of humour purveys the works as sleek objects are juxtaposed against blackened and broken mugs, bent utensils, and even burnt and half eaten toast, the rejects of a disordered and dysfunctional living.
As lemons, cucumbers, plant pots and bricks all share space on the ‘curbs’, the works’ bizarre assemblage and strange disruption of reality seems to owe something to the legacy of Surrealism. However this is not the only art historical resonance as the plinth-like curbs recall 20th century debates in sculpture regarding the role of the plinth in display. It is no mere chance of course that Reus’ exhibition coincides with a retrospective of the sculptor Anthony Caro in the main galleries, a figure instrumental in bringing sculpture off the plinth and down onto the floor. Reus has spoken of her interest in Caro’s work, and her insistence in the lack of ‘hierarchy’ between her sculptural curbs and the elements they hold recalls Caro’s assertion that sculpture should be ‘more real…a response to life’ rather than held up on a pedestal. Emphasising this democratisation, a number of Reus’ curbs incorporate industrial materials, such as corrugated metal and plastic packaging, which traditionally would not have held a place within sculptural practice.
Like Caro, who spoke of the need for the ‘sculptor’s space’ to extend to that of the architects, Reus also demonstrates an acute awareness of sculpture’s relation to the body. The architectural structure is crucial in the fulfilment of these aims, its punctuated walls and intervening screens directing movement and thus encouraging a bodily awareness of the navigation of space. This sense is heightened in the ‘Leaves’ series (2015), a group of sculptures based on the enlarged form of a padlock. Installed on both the inner and outer walls of the structure, the works force the viewer to move both within and without the space. Reus herself has described these sculptures in bodily terms as ‘limb-like protrusions’ to be encountered on the wall at body height, reminiscent of Caro’s ‘Table Pieces’ of the 1960s. In their strange anthropomorphic state and their uncanny enlarged size, the ‘Leaves’ again recall the unheimlich disruption to domestic space of Surrealism.
The exhibition successfully reveals Reus as a multifaceted artist, drawing on diverse references from the domestic to the industrial, the man-made to the manufactured, and the art historical to the contemporary. Simultaneously beautiful yet grotesque, and familiar yet strange, Particle of Inch has a power of intrigue worthy of many revisits.
Clare Nadal is a writer, curator and art historian based in Sheffield.
Top Image: Magali Reus, ‘In Place Of (Sundries)’, 2015. Black waxed and clear waxed Jesmonite, black waxed polyester resin, silicone rubber, polyurethane rubber, latex, powder coated laser cut steel, phosphated and powder coated steel, steel rod, magnets, sanded paper, polyurethane plastic, fabric, air brushed polyester resin, polyurethane resin, putty wax, vinyl. Part 1: 141 x 188 x 90 cm Image courtesy The Approach and the artist.
Image: Magali Reus ‘Particle of Inch’ installation shot at The Hepworth Wakefield. Photography: Jonathan Pow/jonathanpow.com. Image courtesy The Hepworth Wakefield.