The series of sculptures fixed to the walls at Sadie Cole HQ are atypical. Carved in wood, resembling nothing we have seen before, these are German artist’s Paloma Varga Weisz Wild Bunch products.
Varga Weisz first trained as a wood carver before attending art school and learning under the influence of German conceptual artist Gerhard Merz.
Birthed in a creative household, Varga Weisz reminisces in an informative piece collected by Jennifer Higgie for Frieze, her painter father encountered Cocteau, Matisse and Picasso indicating the starting point of his daughter’s search for creative expression.
The ground floor of the gallery is dedicated to limewood sculptures. Her creations are medium sized figurines enhanced with mysterious symbols, uncanny add-ons, and unsettling shapes. An articulated life sized mannequin hangs suspended at the centre of the room and is the only male. It dangles from the ceiling and imposes its presence and resemblance to a human body. Hung from the waist, his position translates capitulation as the surrounding characters appear to look on with indifference. Perhaps his fate is of no surprise to the rest of the Wild Bunch.
Drawings and watercolours are panelled across the upstairs’ gallery. The works on each floor respond to one another harmoniously. But if Varga Weisz’s creations are soft and discreet they are nonetheless odd and striking.
The small characters each have distinct idiosyncrasies revealing their personalities. They are comprised of mainly women, animals and at times both in hybrid forms. The women are double-headed, rocking a baby, carrying six breasts and a tail. There is a monkey holding an egg, a deer and a dog posing as a human and lastly, an old man covered in boils.
Each of the faces is carved in intricate detail, expressing a melancholic and fatalist essence. Some of them erupt directly from pieces of raw wood adding a fantastic quality to the atmosphere. The uneven cut shaping the silhouettes translates a natural imperfection to already eccentric creations. Such traits authenticate the emotions expressed by the pieces.
Who are these figures and why are they watching a unanimated puppet hanging from the ceiling?
If these statuettes were raising questions, the drawings on the second floor would shed light on Varga Weisz’s mysterious works. The subjects of the drawings and watercolours seem to have escaped from a bizarre tale where mice converse with children in their nightgown and where breasted men carry boxes on their hunched backs. These are seemingly preparatory sketches to the sculptures.
The Wild Bunch is a compilation of freaks and surreal living beings forming the world of Varga Weisz. Although I can appreciate the craftsmanship, I admit that I am having a hard time being emotionally moved or intellectually challenged.
Wild bunch: Paloma Varga Weisz at Sadie Cole HQ (09 June – 18 August 2018)