Understanding the Line - Constantin Luser in an Exclusive Interview
What if the two-dimensional images came to life? Imagining our world merged with the realm of doodles, quickly it becomes clear that such a unification can only be done by a great wizard. Daring to name him the magician of image transformation, Constantin Luser offers one solution of this daydream, by translating a two-dimensional drawing to a very tangible 3D form, one we can take in and interact with instantly.
His practice stems from the fascination with the line but encompasses elements inherent to the artist’s nature, such as sculpture, music and design. As one of the most interesting contemporary artists coming from Austria, Constantin Luser delivers a refined expression into the world of a seemingly limited field of drawing. His line is energized and alive like no other’s, charming the observer and inviting them to enter the world profoundly vibrant with emotion and spirit. Wire moves as if made out of organic material while its shadows dance along the warm tones of ethereal brass music. Viewing is not possible when Luser’s work is on display, but rather experiencing, immersing oneself into the confluence of pure, abstract and ultimately harmonious sculptoral creation.
In a conversation with Constantin Luser, we’ve only tried to scratch the surface of his creative mind, hoping to understand where the line comes from and how it moves, how to experience the music and how to perceive the luster of his enveloping objects. While accumulating energy through his latest exhibition Music Tames the Beast at Kunsthaus Graz, we hope to see even more spectacular elaborations on the sophisticated interplay of the constructed and the experienced in the future.
On the Importance of Drawing
Widewalls: Drawing is firmly embedded in your artistic practice, regardless of the piece you are working on. I would even describe your spatial drawings as more experiential than visual. How do you explain this multi-dimensionality of your art?
Constantin Luser: My drawings basically moved from paper onto the wall. Then, the first experiments started on how to get the line “out” of the wall. This was followed by a time of technical difficulty until I found a solution. Since then we have been continuously working on this process, developing and re-finding it further. Working with wire has the great advantage that one can work in a collective without losing the handwriting.
Widewalls: The (hanging) spatial drawings translate onto flat surfaces while existing in a three-dimensional reality. Could they be considered the conceptually connecting portions of your oeuvre? How independent are they from other work you create?
CL: It is the other way around, from the surface into space. The wire developed to compliment the wall drawing. It also picks up the technique of drawing multiple lines. The spatial drawings form a visual connection between the different techniques. However, they also function independently. In addition, their shadow can correspond with the wall or wall drawing.
Widewalls: You sometimes use found objects in your work. How does their original meaning change when assimilated in your sculptures?
CL: Hofstätter Projekte, a former project space based in Vienna, had the particular concept to create a dialog between old and contemporary art. Showing there, I had the opportunity to work with fragments of antique pieces. I tried to complement and further these within my possibilities. Working with these pieces opened an entirely new array of possibilities.
The Musicality of the Akkumulator
Widewalls: Currently on view, the exhibition at Kunsthaus Graz is an immersive experience. Consisting of several works, the central stage is taken by “Akkumulator”. How did you develop this enveloping piece?
CL: The exhibition in Graz is mostly dedicated to another segment of my work: the instruments. These are groups of instruments partially conceived to be played by a number of people at once. In Graz, these instruments were supplemented through the “Akkumulator”, a work that represents an immediate response to a rather particular architectural situation of the Space01 in the Kunsthaus. There, an escalator creates a deep trench into the space and the non-functional end of the escalator protrudes far into the exhibition space. For this empty space, a hollow piece – the “Akkumulator” – was developed. With its additional French Horn, it also assumes an acoustic functionality.
Widewalls: This is, however, not your first musical work. Since when have you been using the sound as an element of expression?
CL: Due to an incredibly strict teacher, I have lost touch with music at an early age. Only with the exchange of one of my drawings against a tuba with a friend of my father did I discover music again. Fascinated by the shape and the sound of the instruments, I soon started to work with them sculpturally.
Widewalls: Clearly an abstract addition, music seems to belong in your abstract symphonies quite naturally. When you consider sound, how do you ‘envision’ it?
CL: The fact that visitors themselves can become active opened up an experimental acoustic level in the exhibition which is constantly changing. The vibration of the air enters a dialogue with the vibration of the drawing. In order to generate sound, it is important to deal in depth with the principles of sound production of each instrument. Here, I highly benefit from having studied industry design.
Widewalls: I must notice that your largely conceptual and abstract work possesses a strong dose of familiarity, starting from the drawing to the most elaborate of pieces. Do you plan this component or does it get born on a visceral level?
CL: It is all related and I follow each strand consequently.
The Materiality of Art
Widewalls: How do you relate the fine lines you create on paper to the material you will use in your tactile creations? What is your favorite material? We see a lot of brass, wire…
CL: I enjoy working in different media and to move between different media as well. Perhaps a further context is that working with pen or wire, they both are the finest, thinnest available to work with.
Widewalls: Drawing is inherently connected to the line and very often – to the lack of color. Still, the warm, golden shimmer of brass almost depicts the sound that is coming out in the large pieces. How important is color to you?
CL: During my industry design studies, I started to paint abstract, colorful pictures to balance. When I started studying sculpture – I stopped, and only later, after an intensive, concentrated phase of drawing did I long for color again. I wanted to leave the black and white world and re-immerse myself into a world of colors; this is how I started my first attempts to combine painting and drawing. Colors carry information within themselves that is independent from the linear depiction and that adds an extra layer of information.
Widewalls: To me, your practice appears akin to the ideas of Kandinsky and Calder in certain moments. Do you have any artistic ‘forefathers’, so to say?
CL: Yes, one could say so. Calder certainly, but also Tinguely, Max Ernst und Tapies have fascinated me early on. So has Andy Goldsworthy.
Widewalls: Are there any other expressive elements you are thinking of exploring next?
CL: I am continuously looking for new, further additions and possibilities.
Widewalls: What does 2016 hold in store for Constantin Luser, after the Joanneum exhibition finishes?
CL: Projects with both Gugging and the Wiener Konzerthaus are coming up. Then a solo show at the space im Ersten, and for ABC Berlin I will be showing with Crone Galerie.
There is very little time to visit the current exhibition Music Tames the Beast by Constantin Luser at Kunsthaus Graz – Joanneum, which ends on May 1st, 2016.
Music Tames the Beast is a comprehensive installation by Constantin Luser showcasing his earlier and latest works. Interactive musical sculptures, three-dimensional wire drawings and objects made with found material give a profound insight into the artist’s complex practice. All of the elements merge and collide, creating a particular experience for the viewer, who can either enter and participate or observe and contemplate any of his works. Hosted in one of the most progressive art halls in Austria, the exhibition marks an important point in Constantin Luser’s career. The catalog of works from the series is already available to pre-order on Amazon.
Featured images: Exhibition views of Constantin Luser show at the Kunsthaus Graz Universalmuseum Joanneum. All images by Manuel Carreon Lopez. Used with permission.