Alexandra Bircken presents Mammal, a new site–specific sculptural intervention. Directly responding to gallery’s distinctive architecture, Bircken has reimagined the vaulted ceiling as a cavernous, upturned ship’s hull. Working with master boat builders to replicate shipbuilding methods, the artist has constructed three imposing bowed beams carved from a single oak tree, echoing the arches of the ceiling. Traversing the gallery space, the beams intersect with the existing architecture to create a spiral. This deceptively simple gesture wholly capsizes the architecture of the gallery.
Concise and austere, Mammal is equally suggestive of organic, bone–like structures, producing a material landscape which recalls a vast carcass. Bircken frequently locates our experience of objects in relation to the body. This new installation plays with tensions between interior and exterior forms, inviting inhabitation.
Bircken’s use of materials is often broadly discussed in terms of its relationship to craft. However, in this new work the artist’s affinity for the handmade is tempered by the large–scale, engineered formation of these structures. Confronting these competing tendencies, repetition and uniformity give way to the haptic qualities of the oak. Traces of the hand, from careful repairs, knots and voids to pencil annotations and surface abrasions, cumulatively record both physical labour and the biography of the object.
Mammal extends from Bircken’s first solo presentation at Studio Voltaire (2011), in which one large scale mirrored floor work correspondingly produced a formal and physical reflection of the gallery’s ceiling. Bircken has frequently made use of mirrors and mirroring as a central strategy and this new commission continues the artist’s meditation on sculptural space, constructing a new and unexpected architecture.
Special thanks to Mike Tupper and the International Boatbuilding Training College, Lowestoft.
Alexandra Bircken lives and works in Cologne. Her solo exhibition STRETCH recently toured between Crédac, Ivry, France, Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach, Germany (both 2017) and Kunstverein Hannover, Germany (2016). Solo exhibitions include Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands; The Hepworth Wakefield, UK (both 2014); Kunstverein Hamburg, Germany (2012); Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne, Germany (2010) and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2008). Her year–long exhibition Parallelgesellschaften at K21 Ständehaus, Düsseldorf continues until 31 March 2018.
Her works are in the collections of Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam and Frac Normandie Rouen, Sotteville–lès–Rouen. Bircken is represented by Herald St, London and BQ, Berlin.