Passageway: Wolfgang Liab
“I am not afraid of beauty, unlike most artists today. The pollen, the milk, the beeswax, they have a beauty that is incredible, that is beyond the imagination, something which you cannot believe is a reality–and it is the most real. I could not make it myself, I could not create it myself, but I can participate in it. Trying to create it yourself is only a tragedy, participating in it is a big chance.”
Chemould Prescott Road - in association with Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, IFA, and the Goethe Institut Mumbai - is delighted to present passageway, the first solo exhibition in India of internationally renowned German artist Wolfgang Laib.
Born in 1950, Laib began working as an artist in 1972. Several iconic, almost mythic, identities define Laib: his training to be a doctor, his hermetic living and working practices, and his serious study of Eastern and pre– Modern religions including Buddhism, Jainism, and medieval Christianity.
Noted Swiss art historian Harald Szeemann observed that Laib’s art issues from the improbable marriage of Indian mysticism and the austere, reductivist aesthetic of Russian avant-garde painter Kasimir Malevich. He explained that it is at once a ritual and a sculpture or painting, without allowing for a choice between one and the other of these categories.
Laib’s work – although it concentrates on a few select materials which are sourced from nature such as rice, pollen, milk and beeswax – is not about naturalism. It is about the material itself, about the intense experience of the material in a neutral environment. The intensity of Laib’s materials not only has to do with their color and substance, but also with their intrinsic quality as a source of vital energy. The Milkstone is one of the seminal works that establish the tone of Laib’s practice. The marble slab for the Milkstone is polished in order to produce an infinitesimal declivity which will (barely) hold back the thin layer of milk which is poured onto its horizontality. One does not anticipate these forms that Laib chooses for his materials – such as the square of milk for example. Or the golden rectangle of pollen. On the floor, this fertile substance, charged with solar energy, seems like a radiant, fragrant and apparently floating form. Particular concentration is demanded when one realises its sensitive nature – it can be destroyed by the slightest breeze or even a movement of the hand.
All his works, says Laib, are concerned with the concurrence of the material and the immaterial. His forms and his artistic process are extreme in their concentrated quietude.
The exhibitions at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke and Chemould Prescott Road in Mumbai will also include other important works such as Laib’s monumental beeswax boats which bear the title of the exhibition and the minimalist black sculpture titled ‘Stairs’.