Danuta Karsten – “In my work space is materialised”

Untitled, 1997. Potato starch, untreated cotton, pigment, metal, H = 250 cm, W = 600 cm, D = 100 cm, Kunsthaus Essen (Danuta Karsten exhibition: “Räume”)
Untitled, 1997. Potato starch, untreated cotton, pigment, metal, H = 250 cm, W = 600 cm, D = 100 cm, Kunsthaus Essen (Danuta Karsten exhibition: “Räume”)

Although the majority of professors at the Düsseldorf Academy focused on concept art during the time when Danuta Karsten was a student there, she preferred to concentrate on the expressive power inherent in material. Her studies with clay, straw, untreated cotton, quark, woven plants, paper, water glass and soil pigments, partly on the ground and partly suspended in interior spaces or installed on metal stands, are shot through with the reverence for material that she learnt during her time at the Academy in Danzig. However in her first public installations in Germany, in churches and gallery spaces, these echoes of Arte Povera give way to an object-like grasp and a highly aesthetic staging of material similar to Magdalena Abakanowicz’s Polish textile art in the 1970s, or the paper and textile objects produced by the Romanian artist duo Ritzi and Peter Jacobi. Karsten’s installations made of paper soaked in water glass in the form of folded conical bags (1994) and hung in the Philip Nicolai church in Recklinghausen; and in the form of large flat sheets piled on top of one another to make a corner cone (1997) exhibited in the Kunsthaus Essen, still display the original, raw, manual and close-to-nature feeling for material deeply rooted in the origins of artists from Eastern Europe. It also characterises Karsten’s room dividers made of two hundred untreated cotton tubes painted black and stiffened with potato starch that were also shown in Essen (ill. 1).

This changed in 1996 when Danuta Karsten began to work with plastic foil, strips and string, and other mostly white or transparent materials. Alongside the white paper that she often uses, these materials also included white twine, matches, latex and soap, mostly arranged in geometrical patterns. The change from Arte Povera “poor” materials to everyday working materials, was evident in an installation made of hundreds of air cushions and shown in the octagon of the foyer of the Ostdeutsche Galerie Museum in Regensburg in 1999 (ill. 3). Her earliest installation of this type was in 1996. It consisted of sixty pyramids of sewn-together PVC sheets standing, solely because of the static potential inherent in the material, in the psychiatric hospital in Bedburg-Hau.

By contrast with the works she created before 1996 in which she used space solely as a place to present her artistic works, from now on she began to relate her work to the whole of the space available within a room, which was itself transformed into a work of art with the installed materials. Since then material and space have been inseparable in her work. She used PVC pyramids for further installations: in 1999 and 2000 in Nordkirchen and Antwerp; in 2000 in the installation entitled “Light Breath” in the Galerie Koło in Danzig; and finally in the eponymous two hundred and fifty installations in 2010 in the Zollverein Colliery in Essen (ill.11). Danuta Karsten rearranges her geometric modules time and time again to suit the corresponding space, thereby reinterpreting them once more. This principle can be seen in all of her work: she takes a found material, “declines” it in serial form and installs it in various spaces until she has achieved a final result which seems to have exhausted all the possibilities. The fact that she also “declines” material according to the way it looks and how it can be manually reworked, can be seen in a work known as “Clothes” that she installed in 2001 in Hattingen: here she took four identical falling-flowing figures and alternated them with hemp, metal wool, sisal and synthetic material (ill. 4).

Mediathek
  • Untitled, 1997. Potato starch, untreated cotton, pigment, metal, H = 250 cm, W = 600 cm, D = 100 cm, Kunsthaus Essen (Danuta Karsten exhibition: “Räume”)

    ill. 1: Untitled, 1997

    Untitled, 1997. Potato starch, untreated cotton, pigment, metal, H = 250 cm, W = 600 cm, D = 100 cm, Kunsthaus Essen (Danuta Karsten exhibition: “Räume”)
  • Untitled, 1998. Hand poured water glass lenses, cardboard rings, steel cables, hooks, W = 800 cm, L = 1900 cm, Museum Ostdeutsche Galerie, Regensburg (on the occasion of the award of the Lovis Corinth Prize to Danuta Karsten)

    ill. 2a: Untitled, 1998

    Untitled, 1998. Hand poured water glass lenses, cardboard rings, steel cables, hooks, W = 800 cm, L = 1900 cm, Museum Ostdeutsche Galerie, Regensburg
  • Untitled, 1998. Hand poured water glass lenses, cardboard rings, steel cables, hooks, W = 800 cm, L = 1900 cm, Museum Ostdeutsche Galerie, Regensburg (on the occasion of the award of the Lovis Corinth Prize to Danuta Karsten)

    ill. 2b: Untitled, 1998

    Untitled, 1998. Hand poured water glass lenses, cardboard rings, steel cables, hooks, W = 800 cm, L = 1900 cm, Museum Ostdeutsche Galerie, Regensburg
  • Untitled, 1999. air bubble cushions on foil, H = 360 cm, ∅ = 600 cm, Museum Ostdeutsche Galerie Regensburg (Exhibition SPEKTRUM. 3 Artists from Poland meet 3 Artists from Germany)

    ill. 3: Untitled, 1999

    Untitled, 1999. air bubble cushions on foil, H = 360 cm, ∅ = 600 cm, Museum Ostdeutsche Galerie Regensburg
  • Clothes, 2001. (1) Hemp, cloth, (2) Metal wool, cloth, (3) Sisal, cloth, (4) plastic, cloth, each H = 300 cm,  ∅ = 400 cm, Stadtmuseum Hattingen (Exhibition entitled “Stadtansichten. 6 Positionen junger Kunst”)

    ill. 4: Clothes, 2001

    Clothes, 2001. (1) Hemp, cloth, (2) Metal wool, cloth, (3) Sisal, cloth, (4) plastic, cloth, each H = 300 cm, ∅ = 400 cm, Stadtmuseum Hattingen
  • Untitled, 2001. Paper, wood glue, aluminium profile, L = 2000 cm, W = 580 cm, H = 660 cm, Museum Bochum (Danuta Karsten exhibition of room installations; Installation 1)

    ill. 5b: Untitled, 2001

    Untitled, 2001. Paper, wood glue, aluminium profile, L = 2000 cm, W = 580 cm, H = 660 cm, Museum Bochum (Danuta Karsten exhibition of room installations; Installation 1)
  • Untitled, 2001. Paper, wood glue, aluminium profile, L = 2000 cm, W = 580 cm, H = 660 cm, Museum Bochum (Danuta Karsten exhibition of room installations; Installation 1)

    ill. 5a: Untitled, 2001

    Untitled, 2001. Paper, wood glue, aluminium profile, L = 2000 cm, W = 580 cm, H = 660 cm, Museum Bochum (Danuta Karsten exhibition of room installations; Installation 1)
  • Untitled, 2003. 80 Ladders, 1000 cm long made of ca. 60,000 headless matches, each 43 x 2 x 2 mm, white yarn, wood glue, Kunstverein ArtHaus e.V., Ahaus (Exhibition “Zünd ab”. Art on Matches and Fire)

    ill. 6: Untitled, 2003

    Untitled, 2003. 80 Ladders, 1000 cm long made of ca. 60,000 headless matches, each 43 x 2 x 2 mm, white yarn, wood glue, Kunstverein ArtHaus e.V., Ahaus
  • Paper Space, 2005. Ca. 4000 hand cut paper spirals, H = 368 cm, W = 600 cm, D = 1400 cm, Studio A. Museum gegenstandsfreier Kunst, Otterndorf (Danuta Karsten exhibition: “Papierraum”)

    ill. 7: Paper Space, 2005

    Paper Space, 2005. Ca. 4000 hand cut paper spirals, H = 368 cm, W = 600 cm, D = 1400 cm, Studio A. Museum gegenstandsfreier Kunst, Otterndorf
  • Untitled, 2006. (interior:) 32 transparent sheets, hand drawing with paint stick, each 280 x 120 cm

    ill. 8a: Untitled, 2006. (interior:)

    Untitled, 2006. (interior:) 32 transparent sheets, hand drawing with paint stick, each 280 x 120 cm
  • Untitled, 2006. (exterior:) Flower roundabout in front of Borbeck Mansion, covered with a ca. 20,000 cm white plastic surface, ∅ = 1300 cm, Galerie im Schloss Borbeck, Essen (Danuta Karsten exhibtion. Rauminstallation)

    ill. 8b: Untitled, 2006 (exterior)

    Untitled, 2006. (exterior:) Flower roundabout in front of Borbeck Mansion, covered with a ca. 20,000 cm white plastic surface, ∅ = 1300 cm, Galerie im Schloss Borbeck, Essen
  • Soap, 2007. Ca. 9000 blocks of soap, H = 3.5 cm, W = 629 cm, D = 800 cm, Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej Kronika, Bytom (Exhibition: “Space as the place 2”)

    ill. 9: Soap, 2007

    Soap, 2007. Ca. 9000 blocks of soap, H = 3.5 cm, W = 629 cm, D = 800 cm, Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej Kronika, Bytom (Exhibition: “Space as the place 2”)
  • On Top, 2009. Latex, H = 200 cm, W= 1400 cm, D = 700 cm, Erich-Brost-Pavillon, Zollverein Colliery, Essen (Danuta Karsten exhibition: Oben)

    ill. 10: On Top, 2009

    On Top, 2009. Latex, H = 200 cm, W= 1400 cm, D = 700 cm, Erich-Brost-Pavillon, Zollverein Colliery, Essen (Danuta Karsten exhibition: Oben)
  • Light Breath, 2010. 250 sewn sheets of PVC, each 50 x 50 x 110 cm, Zollverein Colliery, Essen (European Capital of Culture Ruhr)

    ill. 11: Light Breath, 2010

    Light Breath, 2010. 250 sewn sheets of PVC, each 50 x 50 x 110 cm, Zollverein Colliery, Essen (European Capital of Culture Ruhr)
  • Untitled, 2012. PVC sheets, acrylic paints, H = 550 cm, W = 1300 cm, D = 2000 cm, Flottmann-Hallen, Herne (1st prize in the 2012 selection of works by artists from Herne)

    ill. 12: Untitled, 2012

    Untitled, 2012. PVC sheets, acrylic paints, H = 550 cm, W = 1300 cm, D = 2000 cm, Flottmann-Hallen, Herne (1st prize in the 2012 selection of works by artists from Herne)
  • Untitled, 2012. Paper, nylon string, glue, ca. 66,000 paper cards, each 2 x 7 cm, H = 700 cm, W = 800 cm, D = 800 cm, Atrium im Dominohaus, Reutlingen (Danuta Karsten exhibition: “Papier bewegt”)

    ill. 13a: Untitled, 2012

    Untitled, 2012. Paper, nylon string, glue, ca. 66,000 paper cards, each 2 x 7 cm, H = 700 cm, W = 800 cm, D = 800 cm, Atrium im Dominohaus, Reutlingen
  • Untitled, 2012. Paper, nylon string, glue, ca. 66,000 paper cards, each 2 x 7 cm, H = 700 cm, W = 800 cm, D = 800 cm, Atrium im Dominohaus, Reutlingen (Danuta Karsten exhibition: “Papier bewegt”)

    ill. 13b: Untitled, 2012

    Untitled, 2012. Paper, nylon string, glue, ca. 66,000 paper cards, each 2 x 7 cm, H = 700 cm, W = 800 cm, D = 800 cm, Atrium im Dominohaus, Reutlingen
  • 100 Kilometres, 2013. Strips of synthetic material, metal, W = 1250 cm,  H = 1300 cm,  D = 3000 cm, Kunstkirche Christ-König, Bochum (Danuta Karsten exhibition: “100 Kilometer”)

    ill. 14a: 100 Kilometres, 2013

    100 Kilometres, 2013. Strips of synthetic material, metal, W = 1250 cm, H = 1300 cm, D = 3000 cm, Kunstkirche Christ-König, Bochum
  • 100 Kilometres, 2013. Strips of synthetic material, metal, W = 1250 cm,  H = 1300 cm,  D = 3000 cm, Kunstkirche Christ-König, Bochum (Danuta Karsten exhibition: “100 Kilometer”)

    ill. 14b: 100 Kilometres, 2013

    100 Kilometres, 2013. Strips of synthetic material, metal, W = 1250 cm, H = 1300 cm, D = 3000 cm, Kunstkirche Christ-König, Bochum
  • Municipal Dome, 2013. Galvanised steel, coat of paint, steel profile 20 x 4 x 0,4 cm, ∅ = 1200 cm, H = 600 cm, Recklinghausen, Roundabout on the Hertener Straße/Tiefer Pfad (1st prize in a competition to turn a roundabout into a work of art)

    ill. 15: Municipal Dome, 2013

    Municipal Dome, 2013. Galvanised steel, coat of paint, steel profile 20 x 4 x 0,4 cm, ∅ = 1200 cm, H = 600 cm, Recklinghausen, Roundabout on the Hertener Straße/Tiefer Pfad