Sara Gassmann’s work straddles painting, works on paper, sculpture and installation. Here, she talks with Gisela Stöckli about her upcoming solo exhibition ‘Wetterleuchten’ at VITRINE, Basel, where she will present a large-scale installation, bringing together her painting, ceramics and installation for the first time.
Your solo exhibition at VITRINE, Basel includes paintings, sculptures and installation. What are the common threads running through these works?
The works are process-oriented. The color often takes the lead. The color combinations are subtle and cause frictions. The way of making is visible and the forms are rather primitive.
Can you tell us a little about how color informs the process of your paintings?
I am working in series and switching between the individual paintings. That creates more reflection, time and distance.
The idea of a color combination is the starting point, but during the working process, the idea becomes less important. It is the color and their shapes which determine the procedure. The work on series evokes similar color families.
During your recent residency in Shanghai, you started working with ceramics. This process can be rather slow and gradual - especially with the glazing technique you used - and you never really know how a sculpture turns out until after the final firing. Has this influenced your work in other mediums?
I love to get surprised by my own work, and ceramic is an ideal medium for experimenting with different clay and glazes. Imagining further color and color combinations is a visual brain game. But it hasn’t consciously influenced the other mediums. I like to have the differences from each medium. The colors and shapes influence and interact with each other.
Having a close look at your ceramic sculptures, I realised that these always have a very precisely finished back or inside. This gives each sculpture a turn or switch, which is not directly viewable, underlining the haptic aspect of the work. How do you see this aspect? What role does the inside have for you?
For me, sculptures and objects have a tactile charm, but they are often not allowed to be touched in galleries.
When my first forms were finished, I realised again how great it is to touch them and I started to treat them as a whole, where all the sides and the inside have the same importance. I liked the idea of promoting the haptic aspect in this way, animating the touching and turning.
Talking about the haptic aspect: the works Wuenschelruten are also meant to be held in the hand, to be touched; and already inspired the writer Mathilde Walter Clark to write the poem ‘Totem Poles for Beginners’. Was that role already inherent in the beginning of this work, or was it something that came later?
I like to work with primitive forms and I started with one of the simplest forms of ceramic. I tried out different sizes and couldn’t stop! When the glazed sticks came out of the kiln, the need to touch was inherent.
The form is simple but also fragile and their size is perfect for holding in your hands. A toy on the writing desk.
The exhibition space at Vogesenplatz is viewable 24/7 from the public square. How is this influencing your preparations for the show?
I am showing paintings and ceramics and works on paper that I could show anywhere, but the selection, combination and presentation are always influenced by the works’ surroundings. The installation refers to the here and now and plays with distance and proximity, as well as with the fact that it is behind glass.
2017 starts with an exhibition at VITRINE, Basel. What can we expect next from you?
I have the chance to work and live in New York for six months as an artist in residence with Atelier Mondial, Basel. I am looking forward to diving into another world: this inspires and boosts my work. Alongside paintings on canvas and works on paper, I will have the opportunity to work in a ceramic studio and continue with my ceramics.
‘Wetterleuchten’ runs between 27 January 2017 and 4 March 2017 at VITRINE, Basel, CH, with an opening on Thursday 26 January. For more information, visit http://www.vitrinegallery.com.
To find out more about Sara Gassmann’s practice, visit http://www.saragassmann.ch.