The Engadin: at Galerie Tschudi; Callum Innes “On Ground” & Julian Charrière “First Light”

by Venetia Kapernekas

During the last cold days of December my brief day visit at Lower Engadin.  I adore Zuoz  with the historic village centre and the proud patrician buildings, such as the Chesa Planta, which are particularly well preserved. Here one finds a perfect environment for contemporary art and as Liam Feeman recently wrote  at ” Art, at High Altitudes”  Despite the tiny population of 16,700 inhabitants and the brevity of the region’s high season, which lasts from December through March, there are at least 30 international art galleries between St. Moritz and the municipality of Sent, providing an enlightening alternative for après-ski.(Freeman, NY Times Style Magazine, Dec 1, 2016). Geographically the charming Zuoz belongs to the upper Engadine but everybody who is familiar with the area knows that this village is far away from upper Engadine with his buzzing St. Moritz in the centre.

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I find my  art tranquility  at Galerie Tschudi; a mighty sixteen metre-high tower, dating back to the year 1305, was uncovered within the fabric of Chesa Madalena. The house, located in the centre of Zuoz, was used as a farmhouse until 1999- sensitively renovated by Ruch & Partners Architects– these fascinating historical rooms in the former farmhouse,  house the Galerie Tschudi  fabulous art exhibitions.

These days there is this fabulous dual exhibition , Callum Innes ” On Ground” and of the younger artist Julian Charrière “First Light”.

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 Callum Innes (installation view)
Untitled, No 19, 20, 21, 2016 Lamp black, Oil on linen  162 x 160 cm                                                                photo@Ralph Feiner  @courtesy Galerie Tschudi

‘In one wall painting yellow shivers through the violet surface, and in the other flecks of orangeade visible through the black surface.  This work brings to mind the blackened ceilings prevalent in the Engadin, where carbon deposits remain as reminders of the stoves that once functional beneath them. Between this surface of absorbent charcoal-black  and the work of Callum Innes, an interesting chemistry takes place. ‘

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                Callum Innes (Installation view)   Untitled, 2016
Pastel on Two Rivers papers79 x 58 cm 99 x 77 cm (framed)                                                                               photo@Ralph Feiner  @courtesyGalerie Tschudi

‘Colour is the most important element in the work of the Scottish artist Callum Innes (Edinburgh 1962) …In the Tschudi gallery the colours applied with oil paint on canvas , pastel on paper, but also directly on the wall -appear and disappear. Sometimes they contrast vividly with the white ground; at other times they have in fact a very light, almost transparent hue with a considerable range of nuance. The paintings, pastel drawings and wall paintings require an active observer who takes control.’ (text by Dan Pieters, courtesy @gallery press)

In his research-based practice, Julian Charrière uses sculptural objects and images—both moving and still—to explore the connections between human activity, ecology, the environment, and time. Working in such far-flung locales as Kazakhstan and the Southern Cone, the Berlin-based artist performs site-specific actions inspired by the social and natural sciences, using biological and earthen substances as materials. “I use some scientific methods, but I would describe it more as an archeologist or geologist,” he has said. “I go into the field and get inspired by what I see, then I bring things back to the studio and do work.” A former student of Olafur Eliasson, Charrière focuses on investigations of the natural world, revealing the profound force exerted by humans and the environment on one another and highlighting how ecological systems can exhibit traces of human energy.

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Julian Charrière “Tropisme”, 2015
frozen plant, refrigerated showcase 208 x 66 x 66 cm    photo@Ralph Feiner  @courtesy Galerie Tschudi

“Tropisme” is  a beautiful, melancholic and yet fascinating  art piece; the artist has deposited plants captured in a sheath of ice -as if time could be stopped…  “ the plants might be preserved and archived for future use. In this frozen landscape, the vitality of matter is protected from the forces of entropy and decay. But the organisms also point backwards in time. The plants (orchids, cactuses, etc.) are testimony to a geological period that saw the extinction of dinosaurs. The artist thus freezes them like remains from a time whose memory forever escapes us, except maybe in some uncertain zone of our reptilian brain.” (Tschudi gallery)

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Julian Charrière “Lost at Sea “- Pikini-Fragment, 2016
High pollished stainless steel, coral sand, mutated bikinian coconut, glass 175 x 32 x 32 cm             photo@Ralph Feiner @courtesy Galerie Tschudi

“Lost at Sea”  Pikini Fragment: This series suggests ‘a post-apocalyptic botanical survey; an “unnatural history”. Standing vertically on a bed of coral sand, inside a glass housing  that caps a mirror-sided plinth, each coconut might be interpreted as a castaway that has been washed up on another identificatory shore. The sand implies a kind of terminal beach, while mirrors have long been symbolic of water — and vanity…The fact that these coconuts stand erect, like totemic phalluses, is a bitter irony: genetically disrupted by nuclear radiation, these coconuts from the Marshall Islands are utterly sterile from a reproductive standpoint. That the Marshallese creation myth involves a paradigmatic mother giving birth to a coconut, which then supplies her people with sustenance, tools and clothing, sets the profound degree of this and other genetic disruptions into relief.’ (Nadim Samman, “Unnatural History”, galerie Tschudi ) 

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Julian Charrière Pacific Fiction – Study for Monument, 2016  Coconut Sarcophagi
128 cm high in a steel frame of 227 x 203 cm overall size: 330 x 440 cm
Unique (Model for Monument for Marshall Island)  photo@Ralph Feiner  @courtesy Galerie Tschudi

Pacific Fiction – Study for Monument – is a sculpture which incorporates a pile of coconuts encased in lead. (The piece symbolises the traumatic embrace of the region of Bikini island in Pacific by the atomic bomb (between 1946 and 1958, at a remote Pacific Atoll, 23 of the most powerful explosions in history occurred. During this period, bombs delivering a combined fission yield of 42.2 megatons were detonated)..

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Julian Charrière,Polygon XVIII, 2014,
black and white double exposure medium format film on baryta paper, steel frame, lead, glass, thermonuclear strata, negative, 150 x 180 cm, Unique  @courtesy Galerie Tschudi

“Polygon” is a series of photographs shot at the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in Kazakhstan. The photographs are made on analogue medium format film, and submitted to radiation before their development. Thus they both depict the site of nuclear radiation and bear the actual trace of radioactivity’s effects. Charrière’s journey to the Polygon was inspired by J.G. Ballard’s short story “The Terminal Beach”. The work oscillates between art, science and fiction and brings us to one of the most remote and inaccessible of places — to the beginning of the nuclear age. It is a mystic place, showing the dystopic aesthetics of a future archaeology.

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Julian Charrière “The Blue Fossil Entropic Stories” (3), 2013
Fine Art Print on Hahnemühle Photo Paper 100 x 150 cm 3 +1AP @courtesy Galerie Tschudi

“The Blue Fossil Entropic Stories” is the photographic trace of an expedition the artist undertook in 2013, travelling to Iceland to climb an iceberg in the Arctic Ocean and melt the frozen water beneath his feet with a gas torch during 8 hours. Like an absurd, quixotic hero, Julian Charrière confronts the elements in a seemingly hopeless battle – human time against geological time. And yet, a battle of which global warming is only the starting point. What remains of this perilous endeavour are three photographs of arresting beauty, a kind of contemporary version of Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer Overlooking the Sea of Fog (1817–18), and a questioning of our relation to nature as inherited from the Romantics via ecological thought.

There are two fantastic video works projected  in the  gallery.  On the lower level  is the ” Iroojrilik“; In this work, Charrierè captures the decay of the Bikini Attol’s atomic-industrial architecture. On the upper level floor , the “Somewhere” shot in Kazakhstan, where Joseph Stalin conducted the first atomic tests, “Somewhere” is an excursion into human-environmental interrelations and the topographic modifications in which they result. Julian Charrière pursues an archaeology and geology of deserted human landscapes, exploring their past and future

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Julian Charrière “Eninman III” – Terminal Beach, 2016   Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag, mounted on aluminium Dibond, red Palmira veneered frame, Mirogard anti-reflective glass, 122.8 x 152.8 cm (with frame), Edition of 3 (+1AP) @courtesy Galerie Tschudi

Terminal BeachA survey of mid-20th century atomic-industrial architecture, these black and white works reference the objective style of the Dusseldorf school. With their rusting iron and crumbling concrete, some of these structures recall the Egyptian pyramids: imposing leftovers of a questionable ideal.

all images courtesy of Tschudi gallery

Julian Charrière is participating this weekend (28-29 January 2017) in Zuoz, at Engadin Art Talks.  The topic of this year’s event is: “Snow and Desert”.The aim of the E.A.T./Engadin Art Talks is to facilitate unique interaction and exchange between artists, architects, curators and art enthusiasts in an intimate and informal setting and, in this way, perpetuate the history of the Engadin as a place of intensive creative activity and discourse.

 

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