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Theresa Lawrenz 

Theresa Lawrenz

Location: EMDE GALLERY - Mainz

Theresa Lawrenz

Emde Gallery is delighted to present its first solo exhibition with Theresa Lawrenz starting on the 15th of January.
The artist previously exhibited at the gallery in a group show with Ruben Brückel and Thomas Newman Pound in December 2020. In the current exhibition, she is showing new sculptural works developed as site-specific installations, all of which emerged from a preoccupation with a new subject: road traffic, especially with cars. New materials such as ceramics and silicone are also used. In addition, Theresa Lawrenz will also present monotypes for the first time, which are created on the basis of sketches and drawings and enter into dialogue with the installation works.

Theresa Lawrenz completed her master studies with Prof. Sabine Groß at the Kunsthochschule Mainz in 2020. In the same year, she was awarded the Emy Roeder Prize, and in 2021 she received the Young Artist Award of the Pfalz-Prize for Visual Arts in the sculpture category.

For the group exhibition at the gallery, Theresa Lawrenz developed the three-part work "stairs3", which alluded to the three steps leading to the entrance door of the gallery. In addition, the dimensions of the work referred specifically to the gallery's interior spaces. In her solo exhibition, the artist now responds to the exhibition spaces primarily through their relation to the outside space. The starting point is that the gallery space does not appear to be hermetically sealed off from the outside space, but enters into a dialogue with it. Beside the spatially stepped transition, it is above all the large, floor-to-ceiling shop window that mediates between inside and outside and creates views as well as insights. The view from inside to outside onto the street is just as given as the other way around.

In the work "rainx", the interaction between inside and outside becomes particularly clear. On the glass of the shop window, a silicone mould is attached that shows the typical semi-circular pattern that a windscreen wiper with two wiper arms leaves on the windscreen of a car when it pushes aside raindrops, dirt or snow. In front of and next to it, Theresa Lawrenz has leaned two windscreen wiper arms, formed from short metal rods and held together with concrete, throning on long, thin stalks. Similar to the way the artist gained her forms from observing how one looks at the road traffic or the car, the viewer's gaze is led back to the outside space, to the cars parked in front of the gallery. The viewer's attention is drawn from the work to the location.

At the same time, it becomes clear that Theresa Lawrenz's artistic practice is largely characterized by an interest in taking up familiar objects or even forms of our everyday perception, translating them into other materials and transferring them into new contexts. In this way, the viewer perceives the shape of these objects differently than they would usually do under the sole aspect of function.

A good example are the ceramic works and installations that have emerged from her preoccupation with hubcaps - also called wheel trims. They are based on objects she has found as well as on her archive photographs of hubcaps, which the artist has repeatedly made over the past months on her way through cities such as Frankfurt or Mainz.
On the gallery floor is an installation of three hubcaps held together only by five steel rods. The weight of the hubcaps has been brought into a fragile equilibrium by the artist with the help of the metal rods. The rods and hubcaps keep each other in balance. The tension expressed in the fragile balancing act, the almost falling over, creates a poetic, playful effect that is further enhanced by the interplay of two very different materials - hard iron rods and fragile ceramics. Other hubcaps are distributed individually or in loose groupings in the exhibition space. The design of the individual specimens is partly very different, just as there are different models, depending on the type of vehicle, requirement or taste. Some are -shaped and appear very symmetrical, others have an almost closed surface with few recesses.

It is not only the object that is of interest to the artist and serves her as a model, but above all its different shapes, patterns and rhythms, which are on the one hand individual and yet also characteristic of a multitude of all hubcaps. The installation appears minimalist, but the ceramics also evoke the most diverse associations. For example, to manhole covers or old wooden wheels. The analogy to cogwheels also comes up. The more closed ones may remind some visitors of plates.

The installation in the back room of the gallery is also a work with an automotive reference, more precisely an oversized steering wheel made of elastomer, produced in a sand casting process. In terms of its shape, it is reminiscent of a ring that is connected to a central part by four asymmetrically arranged spokes. The elastomer ensures that the steering wheel appears strongly deformed. Half of the lower part rests on a base protrusion of the room, the other half leans against the wall. The upper rim of the steering wheel is supported by a metal rod that rises vertically from the floor and stands freely in the room. Similar to the floor work, this work also has something very fragile, something unstable about it. And here, too, two very different materials meet: hard metal and elastic plastic.
The steering wheel is so deformed that it is no longer recognizable as such. Only the title "quarter to three", which refers to the recommended position of the hands on a car steering wheel, humorously reveals what it actually is. The alienation of the outer form irritates the perception, to which (depending on the location) other facets open up again and again; primarily abstract forms, without clear associations. The slightly porous surface structure, typical of sand casting, with its striking grain reminiscent of a leopard skin, gives the sculpture its very own character. By translating it into a different size and material, the object defies the usual reception, which is usually limited to the functional aspect, of steering.

In addition to sculptural works and installations, Theresa Lawrenz has recently turned to monotype, a printing technique that combines painting, drawing and graphics. Although it is a printing technique, the results are unique.
Like the sculptural works and installations, the small-format monotypes are dedicated to objects and forms of the urban outdoor space and the car, such as the windscreen motif or crowd barriers. Overall, the paintings are characterized by a sketchy, abstracting formal language with lines and surfaces fraying at the edges, some of which have a cellular, others a punctiform, blotchy-grainy structure.

Theresa Lawrenz's works shown in the exhibition enter into dialogue with each other as well as with the outside space. In doing so, they allow for a variety of associations and irritate our perception; the boundary between abstraction and representation is sometimes fluid. In this way, they can contribute to opening up a different view of the everyday or the previously overlooked.

Interview between Theresa Lawrenz and Barbara Auer (former director of the Kunstverein Ludwighafen)

Barbara Auer: In the run-up to an exhibition, you always take a close look at the spatial conditions, examine the places in which you show your works. What concept did you develop for the gallery spaces?

Theresa Lawrenz: Yes, that's right, I have a preference for site-specific work. The EMDE Gallery spaces are exciting! I already dealt with the three steps leading to the entrance door a year ago in the group exhibition with Ruben Brückel and Thomas Newman Pound. Back then, I developed the three-part work "stairs3", whose dimensions were also oriented towards the interior spaces. This time I was interested in the reference to the outside. White cubes often pretend that there is no outside, the works float in a white empty space, maybe that's how they even assert themselves. The gallery is not a classic white cube, it has very specific dimensions and materials, I like that. It is possible to look into the gallery from the pavement, and through the shop window there is also a connection between the outside and the inside. With the work "rainx" I refer to the parked cars that are always in the street of the gallery. So maybe not a site-specific work, but a city-specific work.

BA: You created new works in the past year. So far you have been inspired by buildings under construction or demolition, by boundaries of public space and forms of urban furniture. Now your gaze is directed at road traffic; various works have been created that can be read as quotations on road markings or road signs. How did this theme come about?

TL: Even though I now focus strongly on traffic and cars, I continue to work on the previous themes. Since my parents' house in the Ahr valley was badly affected by the flood disaster, I spent a lot of the summer working on demolition, rubble and dust. It wasn't a conscious decision, but so far I've hit the pause button on the topic of shell construction and demolition. I've lived in the centre of Frankfurt for a year now, and on my daily commutes I notice cars first and foremost. They are simply at my eye level and are everywhere. But I am also a cyclist and a car driver. Traffic is an exciting topic because a lot of things come together here. A coexistence with different speeds, perspectives and interests. Constructional norms are just as effective as social norms. Traffic is something where culture and society take place. Participation in traffic is learned, because symbols and forms in traffic are very specific, they function like a language and are changed over time. I am interested in the "ordinary", the forms and materials of everyday life. They affect people, their bodies, their movements and their thinking. Because the forms and materials of road traffic are so much a part of my everyday life, I didn't perceive them as interesting for a long time. Then, on the motorway, I noticed that I only ever perceive the arrow on the asphalt from the car's perspective - over the car hood and from inside. I thought about what would happen if I took this shape out of context and placed it in space differently.

BA: Am I mistaken or isn't there also a dash of irony in it? I mean, for example, the directional arrows made of cobblestones. You can't just drive over them, they are rather dysfunctional, absurd, as are the "empty" street signs.

TL: I think so. When something functional loses its context or appears in another dimension, funny moments can arise. If the arrow on the motorway seems small, disappearing from the corner of your eye within a fraction, it triggers something completely different as a cobblestone mosaic. We live in a highly functional world and a society that measures and evaluates its members by their performance. This concerns me and I enjoy works or materials that are deprived of their function and, precisely because of this, take aim at the way they function. Sometimes something new can emerge.

BA: Recently you have also been working with a new material, silicone. What quality does silicone have compared to the materials you have mainly used so far, concrete and steel?

TL: I'm not finished with concrete yet! But something changed in the last year, I have taken more time to experiment. I took a step back and asked myself if there are other materials that suit my ideas. Silicone initially appealed to me precisely as a counter and co-player to concrete. Both are poured, but have very different properties and histories. Silicone is a much younger material and is used everywhere in the 21st century: in the body, cosmetics, construction, technology, etc. I experiment a lot and want to find out everything about a material. If I ever get into a material like silicone, it will be thorough and longer. Let's see where it leads.

BA: You are also showing monotypes for the first time. How long have you been working with this printing process and what interests you about it?

TL: In my studies I was strongly focused on sculpture, and the projects became bigger and bigger. Along the way, quick sketches and construction drawings were made, to which I attached no value. Now I've realized that I can of course also work with the forms I work with in three dimensions in two dimensions, and I'm actually already doing that. Monotypes are exciting because a drawing can only be printed once, there are no corrections. Drawing quickly and directly suits me and is fun. I usually draw the forms that I also work with sculpturally and play with lines, proportions and surfaces. But there are also parallels to concrete casting that I find interesting.

BA: In the exhibition, the works revolve around the themes of cars and road traffic. You dismantle the car and take it apart. The work "rainx" does not open up the view but, depending on the viewer's position, blocks the view into the gallery spaces or outside. The ceramic hubcaps, which are detached from their context and leaned freely against the wall in the room, are also extremely fragile and easily breakable, and thus also dysfunctional. What formal and thematic questions underlie these works?

TL: At first, I was interested in typical forms that can be found on all cars. Hubcaps, which are only a disguise, for example. I then walk through the streets and photograph or collect hubcaps. In my work, I am not interested in cataloguing, but rather in its detachment, i.e. playing with forms, rhythms and associations. I also find points of contact exciting. So the steering wheel, which is touched by the hands, or the weather, to which every car on the road is exposed. Isn't it funny that immense leaps are being made in car technology, but rain is still met mechanically with windscreen wipers? So these wipers swipe across the windscreen and create a very special shape. At the same time, it is a typical shape of the car. These considerations have led to the work "rainx".


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