From all angles

Cape Town-based architect and artist Lars Fischedick's work tests the boundaries of where it begins and ends.

German native Lars Fischedick brings an architect’s affinity for space, angles and perspective to his work as an artist.

Hailing from Freiburg in the Black Forest region of Germany, he specialised in the field of exhibition architecture and worked in museums in Berlin hand in hand with artists. In 2002, before relocating to South Africa, he was part of the team on the “Wrapped Reichstag Project” working with Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

He closed the door of his local architecture workshop to dedicate himself to his art. Playing with view angles and perspective in his expansive works, Fischedick’s background in architecture is evident in the technical precision of his artworks. He drew on this precision to create the Most Beautiful Object in South African and Innovation Award trophies for Design Indaba Expo 2015. Designed by Katerina Sonntagova, they are works of art rather than traditional trophies.

We spoke to Fischedick about the crossover from architecture to art and found out more about how he plays with ideas of space and perspective in his work.

Please tell us a bit about The Architecture Workshop and what work you’re currently involved with?

The Architecture Workshop was my company for 12 years and we specialised in architectural model building. It was an interesting time, creative in its own way. I accumulated an immense knowledge about all kinds of materials. Some of this knowledge I am using in my art. In fact, one can see where I am coming from in my work… the architecture, the landscapes, aerial views and perspectives. One of the most interesting projects I was involved in was the Ahmed Baba Centre in Timbuktu, Mali – interesting because of the heritage and the historical significance. I remember sitting in front of the TV following a German programme and seeing Thabo Mbeki introduce the project with my model. That was very exciting.

You immigrated to South Africa from Germany in 2002. Have the different architectural styles and cultures of the countries you’ve lived in influenced your work?

Yes. The deeper I explore my work the more I discover what has been given to me by my parents, my education in school and later my studies in architecture. It all reflects and comes to the surface within my work. I sometimes don’t see it at first; only later when a piece is hanging in a gallery and I hear a comment, then I realise where it all came from. I very much feel the further I go along, the more I collect, inhale, process and exhale imagery I have seen along the way.

What is your creative process?

I always carry my sketchbook with me and ideas come when they like. Even just when I drive along the road I find myself stopping on the side of the road “capturing” a thought and image. Then I go in my studio and either use one of the sketches I made or just start cutting into a piece of wood. There are planned works or “free”, non-planned pieces within my creations.  Both ways, there is always a new element to it. Even if I use a sketch and start with a planned piece, there comes a point when something new emerges – that is when the magic happens and that is what I love. It surprises me. It inspires me to get to that point over and over again. I very much feel like an explorer.

Who or what inspires you?

I have a couple of heroes whom I admire and who inspire me through their bodies of work. Kandinsky, Mondrian, Le Corbusier, Dali, Rietveld, Tinguely, Beuys, Serra and Christo. I refer to them as space “benders” – exploring and showing a new view angle on things, expanding our perception. The thought excites me that there are view angles and perspectives we haven’t seen yet. There is always the possibility of something new to come. We leave something behind and pick something new up, we uncover something that was hidden just under a thin blanket but unseen. That is magic.

You have said that your work deals with three-dimensional spaces and plays with pushing the audience’s perceptual boundaries. How do you achieve this?

I am not sure if I am achieving this already but it is one of my goals. I am working with perspective and projective geometry, which deals with the view angle, horizons and focal points. It’s a bit like Op Art in 3D. Op Art artists in the early 60s illustrated works that looked 3D but weren’t. With some of my works I am leaning towards that but am taking it somewhere else. For example, my folded pieces show a folded canvas with lines illustrating a three-dimensional space somewhere in between. It is a space that you can see and even experience but you can’t enter. And when you move along, changing your view angle, the space moves with you and opens up or closes. You become part of that illustrated space. The further I go the more I get to sculpture and room installations, where one can finally enter that space and have an experience.

What part of the artistic process do you enjoy the most?

The creation of a piece – it’s like medicine to me. I was busy working on a large piece called “Raven” in 2013. It was the first time I experienced a work “communicating” with me… it was magic. It was one of the “free” creations that wasn’t planned and I was halfway through when, all of a sudden, I felt that the wood started speaking to me, even giving me its name. It was amazing.

The work you do is very technical and precise, however there is a sense of freedom in your artworks. Do you find that balance comes naturally?

Oh, I think you haven’t seen my “explosive” pieces! But a sense of freedom is good. I often hear people say that my pieces need a lot of space – much more than the actual size – and that the lines extend even further than the wood, reaching out into the space around. I try to find that moment when I feel that the piece is finished. I guess that would be the place of balance, the meeting between the lines and the surfaces they create and the colour. It doesn’t come easy. Sometimes I find myself going back to a piece and altering it just because it is still with me. I guess because I move on, my art moves on too. As long as there is something happening, some kind of movement or sensation, otherwise it’s dead.

Your exhibition, Zero Crossing, was held last year at Ebony Gallery. Could you tell us a bit about the idea behind that body of work?

A “zero-crossing” is a point where the sign of a mathematical function changes (for example, from positive to negative), represented by a crossing of the axis (zero value) in the graph of the function. It basically describes the space in-between in a mathematical term. My exploration was of the space between optical illusion and reality – the moment of the day meeting the night, above and below, outer and inner. That is the fundamental idea – a fine line which one can’t grasp just like that. One has to find a new language to pinch through and into it. It is part of my exploration that I described earlier. I find it highly interesting where a space starts and where it stops: what are the boundaries… the wall? A wall always seperates one side with the other. But what is in between? Can I make pieces that penetrate a space by line compositions and reach the other side? I’ll try to find out.