Discover the X factor of wire through the eyes of artist Thomas Raschke.
Alexandra Onderwater, Frame Magazine
What is it? A kitchen made from wire-frame sculptures. Listen up: this is real. Thomas Raschke doesn’t fool around with computer renderings. What’s more, the whole idea is to mystify and confuse observers with wire sculptures that visitors are encouraged to touch.
Raschke and wire have been inseparable for a couple of decades now. He recalls seeing his first wire frame at the age of 18 – on the screen of a CNC machine – as if it were yesterday. ‘A screen filled with nothing but rotating lines.’ It took him more than 20 years to answer the question he asked himself at that moment. ‘Can I do what the computer is doing?’ The answer was yes. For Thomas Raschke, a native of Berlin currently living in Stockholm, art is a question of unremitting labour, of bending and welding and endless patience. ‘A table and chair take me about six weeks to complete.’
His work has nothing to do with special 3D software. As he begins a project, there’s not even a sketchbook in sight, because Raschke makes everything full scale and true to life the first time around. Like the refrigerator that the artist approached with a ruler, taking care to get the measurements exactly right, looking, contemplating, absorbing every angle and opening in preparation for copying the appliance in wire as precisely as possible. ‘Although I do need to stop when I no longer understand what I’m seeing. Electronics is my end point.’ It sounds exciting, and it is. The accompanying sketch is the final step, like an afterthought, made when the piece has been completed. It’s totally opposite to the process you’d expect him to follow. Raschke loves throwing us off balance.
‘Imagine you need a black rope to draw a line in space. The clearest solution is wire; the cheapest solution is steel.’ Spoken with the passion of a believer. He’s not talking about just any kind of wire. It has to be ‘3.8-mm wire’, which gives ‘the best impression of lines in space’. Thick enough to prevent the sculpture from breaking and to ensure a visible play of lines from a distance of 5 m, and thin enough to reveal the details of a work that he doesn’t want people to see as merely a dense tangle of lines.
The wire sculptures are his way of flirting with reality. ‘I look at it as a bet with the computer. And you know what? I’m the winner. I’ve done it!’ We’re not the first to be confronted with Raschke as the crazed creative – a euphoric sculptor who abandoned a career as a goldsmith in his search for more artistic freedom. ‘Making brooches was okay, but I wanted to create my own thing and not just something to please the customer.’
He said goodbye not only to the profession but also to the precious metals – and went off to experiment with cardboard. ‘I wanted to get away from metal things. They were too sweet, too cute. No self-criticism involved. The first five years of my life as an artist I refused to use metal or any other material that reminded me of my past as a goldsmith. I looked at metal as something without a soul.’
Today he enjoys the surprised faces of viewers as they discover what he’s made with this ordinary, ‘soulless’ material. ‘Wire in itself has no meaning; it’s something you’d throw away. I transform it into something aesthetic.’ Raschke likes nothing better than coming across an apparatus with a hose or a tube – say, for example, a washing machine. Giving it a place in his oeuvre as a work of art definitely makes him ‘happy for a few moments’.
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