Sebastian Koch


Re-shuffling minimal-aesthetic conventions

Sebastian Koch’s works feature a minimal-aesthetic formal language, drawing on the vocabulary of abstraction in the art history of the 20th century. This language introduces new dimensions of forms and materials into his works, breaking the linearity of conventional means of visualisation.

The title of the exhibition, “Crook”, can be interpreted in two ways: on the one hand it literally refers to curving and bending. “Bending” for example can be associated with the technique used in furniture manufacturing, particularly by the Thonet company, which did pioneering work in this regard in Austria and to which Koch often refers in his works. On the other hand, “Crook” can also mean “trickster” thus referring to the artist himself, who uses forms and materials based on a sophisticated method and making them appear as something different. As Chimera, they conceal the context of their origination and so the artist plays a game of deception with the viewers by mixing what is there and what’s not or the basic material and its pretended shapes.

Koch’s works were originally based in the context of printed graphics, but he left that behind and developed his works further, involving numerous materials and a specific kind of combinatorics, which, for example, starts with a series of ink drawings. The formal language applied here is very similar to the abstract vocabulary from art history, but the sheets used as a surface for the drawings are factory-made insert sheets for office folders. By putting them in display-like frames, Koch disposes of their original context. The background colours vary, depending on the standards of the industrial sheets. Through the abstract ink drawings and the particular way of displaying them, these sheets experience an auratic upgrading.

Another method of media fusion becomes visible or is implied in a series of works in which Koch uses a standard photocopier. He only uses the light of the photocopier to create shadow images, like rayographs, which he presents as large-format pictures. Posted on a traditional canvas and framed like a painting, these works on paper confront viewers with the question of their ontological meaning. Is it a graphic work, a photograph or a painting? The fact that none of the options would be the right answer is due to the simultaneity of media in contemporary art, where the temporal dimensions of prototype, copy and afterimage are often suspended.

Drawing or rather graphically depicting abstract formations and their sculptural presentation in the exhibition room is the underlying interaction in Koch’s artistic work. His objects draw on a Dadaistic-cubistic formal language, where elements of different materials are compressed in their consistency thus creating a new dialectic between form and function, or between the visible structures and the reflections on their materiality. An example of this process that demonstrates Koch’s artistic approach are rounded off, curved sculptures arranged in a linear fashion, which might just as well be from a drawing. Although these sculptures can be imagined as lines in a three-dimensional structure, they are in fact different elements of various materials, which have been put together like modules.

Another sculpture is centered on a traditional pedestal made of plaster. But the pedestal has an unusual shape: it is as if wooden legs protruded from it. And this again leads to a shift of context from the visible to its interpretation. By using sculptural elements from different contexts of interpretation, Koch is basically using the same method that tricksters or “Crooks” would use in order to transfer the visible to a new sensory level, thereby turning it into the manifestation of his particular artistic methodology.

Text. Walter Seidl
Translation: Mandana Taban