Reto Pulfer: Livingthings

14/12/2022 – 28/02/2023

It all turns to sand, indistinguishable from the sand that covers the vicinity. On the ground and in the air. i

Coinciding with Reto Pulfer’s solo exhibition, Livingthings, at Hollybush Gardens, this project brings together paintings and works on paper related to Pulfer’s newly translated science fiction novel, Gina — a Zustand novel (2022). Gina imagines a realm of post-apocalyptic and post-human conditions navigated by a multispecies system. By turns sensorial, magical and distinctly ecological, the novel posits a speculative imagining of an interdependent world that has shifted away from anthropocentrism. Through polyphonic passages and mystical vignettes, Gina reads as a narrativisation of Pulfer’s relationship to the natural world as it unravels in his artistic practice.

Pulfer’s work deploys a vast web of interrelated details and motives, much like an ecosystem. The granularity of seeds, sand, wood shavings and dried flowers invoke a vast immaterial system of existence: infinite geometries, astrologies, atmospheres. Ancient knots are coded in polychromatic patterns; wooden objects are personalised instruments; suspended textiles are provisional shelters. Together, these elements create an environment that Pulfer refers to as a Zustand: a state or a situation, the very tension between transformation and fixity. Refusing the notion of the finished, independent object, Pulfer’s works exist in a state between metamorphosis and permanence.

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Installation view, Die Loci Der Ortie, Centre international d’art et du paysage de l’ile de Vassivière, 2015

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Installation view, Livingthings, Hollybush Gardens, London, 2022 – 2023

Intimately related to the construction of Gina, a suite of watercolour works feature passages of pencilled text, their compositions rendering the very sensation, action or environment described. Webbing disentangles into weeds and reptiles while illustrations of joinery allude to tentative instruction. Each watercolour relates specifically to the desert landscapes detailed in Gina, a shape-shifting environment weathered by sandstorms yet characterised as a place of enduring renewal: ‘the desert is alive and revives.’ ii

It is said about the chain link that every chain is only as strong as the weakest link, or vice versa. No chain could consist of just one link. Together, only together. iii

Reto Pulfer
Gina, Bild der Knoten, des Netzes über dem Klotz der Stadt in der Wüste [Gina, Image with Knots and Net over the Desert Lump City], 2015
Pastel, pencil, watercolour, pen, cotton ribbon, thyme plant on paper
83 x 70 cm

€3,500 (excl. VAT and shipping)

Suddenly a sandstorm blew and her mane flapped to the rhythm. iv

Reto Pulfer
Gina, Szene des Sandstrumes [Gina, Scene with Sandstrom], 2015
Pastel, pen, pencil, watercolour on paper
70 x 49.5 cm

€3,000 (excl. VAT and shipping)

At first we were glad to live in the big, sheltered house, since the great cities that were generously built on the favourable seawater lake dissolved into uselessness, because just like heaps of stones that gather below a grinding rock face and are towered over by irrepressible root plants, the cities disappeared rapidly. v

Reto Pulfer
Gina, Wüstenlandschaft mit Klotz in der Ferne, Netz obenauf, und grossem, unerklärlichem und entfliehendem See [Ginam, Desert Landscape with Cube in the Distance, Net Above, and the Great Unexplainable Disappearing Lake], 2015
Pastel, watercolour, pencil, pen, thread on paper
79.5 x 70.5 cm

€3,500 (excl. VAT and shipping)

The storm only rages for a short time and erases all traces and all signs. The place no longer resembles itself. The changes come to bear as a new image. As a whole. Finally, everything wiped out! The colour of the sky turns a pale sky blue full of depth and distance that makes her want to cry. vi

Reto Pulfer
Gina, Bild des aufkommenden Sandsturmes in dem Moment als sie verfolgt ist, durch die Wüste gejagt wird (Instrumente) [Gina, Image of the Coming Sandstorm in the Moment When She is Pursued; he is Hunted in the Desert (Instruments)], 2015
Pastel, pencil, watercolour, pen, hemp rope on paper
86 x 70 cm

€3,500 (excl. VAT and shipping)

The great net: It hangs over us, it’s almost as big as our populated landscape, even bigger; it hangs too high for us to touch, although if we could reach it we would move in it, we could wander through it, meander, loll, wiggle […] It casts a shadow like a cloud, we interpret and speak of it like the weather, we describe its forms like reading the skies. vii

Reto Pulfer
Gina, das grosse Netz [Gina, the Great Net], 2015
Pastel, pencil, watercolour on paper
67 x 51 cm

€3,000 (excl. VAT and shipping)

Pulfer’s work deploys a vast web of interrelated details and motives, much like an ecosystem. The granularity of seeds, sand, wood shavings and dried flowers invoke a vast immaterial system of existence: infinite geometries, astrologies, atmospheres. Ancient knots are coded in polychromatic patterns; wooden objects are personalised instruments; suspended textiles are provisional shelters. Together, these elements create an environment that Pulfer refers to as a Zustand: a state or a situation, the very tension between transformation and fixity. Refusing the notion of the finished, independent object, Pulfer’s works exist in a state between metamorphosis and permanence.

Integrating content from different periods, the works presented here are layered with temporality. A series of abstract paintings incorporate shoelaces, ropes, raku ceramics and ribbons, refusing a strict definition and playfully subverting the distinctions between mediums. In their seeming fragility and provisionality – knots to be unspooled, ceramics incidentally cracked – Pulfer relates painting to qualities of emergence in both nature and memory.

Reto Pulfer
Seilschaft des Überlebens [Clique of survival], 2015
Shoelace, metal, rope, oil on linen
50 x 40 x 4 cm

€6,500 (excl. VAT and shipping)

The screeching of birds of paradise and climbing animals drowned out the gentle waves The bay was curved, the view of the open sea was obscured by recurring rocks and islets. viii

Reto Pulfer
Vogelgarten [Garden of Birds], 2015
Raku ceramic, ink on ribbon, oil on linen
40 x 30 x 4 cm

€6,500 (excl. VAT and shipping)

Within moments, little plants shot out of the ground, whose upright stalks branched into umbels with a boom, where fine flowers suddenly appeared at all ends, which then became spherical coriander seeds, only to trickle down like rain shortly afterwards, with new little plants emerging from the seeds in a flash […] she found herself in a simultaneously nascent and dying coriander meadow. ix

Reto Pulfer
Gina Wasservision, 2015
Raku ceramic, thread, rope, oil on linen
50 x 40 x 8 cm

€6,500 (excl. VAT and shipping)

In one corner plants grew small and gaunt like they do on mountains, and in another everything was fleshy and deep green like in the jungle. Elsewhere, it looked like a living desert—cacti of all shapes and convolutions, thorns of all varieties—and lush laden fruit trees thrived beyond. x

Reto Pulfer
Tal mit fleischigen Blättern, Tod im Tal [Valley with fleshy leaves, death in the valley], 2015
Ink on bedsheet, oil on linen
40 x 30 x 4 cm

€6,500 (excl. VAT and shipping)

She examined the undulations of the dune and knew that an edible livingthing dwelt beneath it. There the brittle-thin discs stuck vertically into the depths. The so-called palm-like sail-leaf—also called paper scales—were independent plants that grew in self-sustaining groups. Rare moisture collected in the gaps. xi

Reto Pulfer
Höhlenbach [Creek of a cave], 2015
Rope, shoelace, Raku ceramic, pencil, oil on linen
40 x 30 x 8 cm

€6,500 (excl. VAT and shipping)

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Reto Pulfer
sun poet tea insect crasscrude, 2023
Unique, embroidered t-shirt, 100% cotton

Size: Medium

€90 (excl. VAT and shipping)

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Reto Pulfer
death rhizome, 2023
Unique, embroidered t-shirt, 100% cotton

Size: Medium

€90 (excl. VAT and shipping)

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Reto Pulfer
Friendship Club, 2023
Unique, embroidered t-shirt, 100% cotton

Size: Medium

€90 (excl. VAT and shipping)

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Reto Pulfer
Holy glaciers! Deepsorryblame Multithanks Worst gnarlythought, 2023
Unique, embroidered t-shirt, 100% cotton

Size: Medium

€90 (excl. VAT and shipping)

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Reto Pulfer
solar being, 2023
Unique, embroidered t-shirt, 100% cotton

Size: Medium

€90 (excl. VAT and shipping)

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Reto Pulfer
Holy Glaciers, 2023
Unique, embroidered t-shirt, 100% cotton

Size: Medium

€90 (excl. VAT and shipping)

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Reto Pulfer
tttimeslipping, 2023
Unique, embroidered t-shirt, 100% cotton

Size: Large

€90 (excl. VAT and shipping)

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Reto Pulfer
Livingthings, 2023
Unique, embroidered t-shirt, 100% cotton

Size: Large

€90 (excl. VAT and shipping)

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Reto Pulfer
death rhizome to the doers, 2023
Unique, embroidered t-shirt, 100% cotton

Size: Large

€90 (excl. VAT and shipping)

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Reto Pulfer
Capsicum, 2023
Unique, embroidered t-shirt, 100% cotton

Size: Large

€90 (excl. VAT and shipping)

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Newly translated into English, Gina–a Zustand novel (2022) is described by Reto Pulfer as ‘mind-massaging, language-fermenting, botanical-sci-fi exorcism’. The novel imagines a science fictional realm of post-apocalyptic and post-human conditions navigated by a matrix of human and non-human protagonists. By turns sensorial, magical and distinctly ecological, Gina posits a speculative imagining of an interdependent world that decentres anthropocentrism.

Zustand, meanwhile, articulates a central tenet of Pulfer’s, expressing the very tension between transformation and fixity. As Anselm Franke notes in the foreword to Gina: ‘A Zustand may be a situation that has become transfixed or even permanent … an eternal present, having spatialised time. But the concept also inevitably invokes transitions from one state to another … and a liminal realm between them.’

Reto Pulfer
Gina — a Zustand novel
Publisher: BOM DIA BOA TARDE BOA NOITE, 2022
Texts: Anselm Franke, Reto Pulfer
Translator: Jen Calleja
17.7 x 10 x 2 cm, 298 pages, softcover
ISBN: 9783964360601

£14

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Livingthings illustrates Pulfer’s expressive approach to painting and writing that is mutually generative and at times synchronous, attending to ways of working alongside natural life, as Pulfer affirms: ‘plants are collaborators.’ Across his multidisciplinary practice, Pulfer develops a worldview characterised by fluid states of fragility: interdependent, fertile and transmutative.

Pulfer’s practice is one that is inscribed through time, with the artist often returning to works to alter, re-assemble or annotate them. Akin to organic, ‘living things’, the works exist within a state of permanent mutability. The correspondence of content across mediums is evident in this project, which foregrounds paintings and works on paper created concurrently with the writing of Gina.

 

Reto Pulfer (b. 1981, Bern, Switzerland) lives and works in Uckermark, Germany. He creates immersive installations using fabric, plants, drawings, paintings and a variety of found objects. Pulfer’s practice investigates various conditions of mutability, combining textile, painting, botanical life and natural material to create installations and performances. Often influenced by his immediate surroundings of Uckermark, Germany, Pulfer frequently uses material which is close at hand to examine the relationships between humanity, nature and the cosmos. Constituting a tangible, sensorial and immersive means of relating to the natural world, Pulfer observes the intimate, poetic connections between history, biology and materiality.

Recent solo exhibitions include Blitzzzustand, Kunstverein KunstHaus Potsdam, Germany (2022); edrerde, Hollybush Gardens, London (2021); Reto Pulfer: Gegenwartsgewaechse, Fundaziun Nairs, Switzerland (2020); Angiozustand, Lafayette Anticipations, Paris (2020); Tincti, Art Basel Parcours (2019); Bourgeon purin pur, Centre culturel suisse, Paris (2019); Die Loci Der Ortie, Centre international d’art et du paysage de l’île de Vassivière, France (2015); Gewässerzeiten, Spike Island, Bristol, UK (2015); Dehydrierte Landschaft, Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève, Switzerland (2015); Les chambres des états, Musée régional d’art contemporain Languedoc-Roussillon, Sérignan, France; and Zustandseffekte, Swiss Institute, New York (2013).

Selected group exhibitions include Soil to Soil, Gebert Stiftung für Kultur, St. Gallen, Switzerland (2022); The Stomach and the Port, Liverpool Biennial 2021 (2021); You – Oeuvres de la collection Lafayette Anticipations, Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris (2019); Kunstkredit Basel-Stadt, Kunsthalle Basel (2018); Metamorphoses Let Everything Happen to You, Castello di Rivoli, Turin (2018); 100 Jahre Gegenwart. Der Auftakt, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2015); and Animism, Kunsthal Extra City Antwerpen and M HKA – Museum of Contemporary Art, Antwerp (2010). His work is held in the collections of FRAC Limousin, France; Centre national des arts plastiques, France; Collection Lafayette Anticipations, Paris; Sammlung Kunstkredit Baselland, Basel; and David Roberts Art Foundation, London.

x – xi. Pulfer, Reto. Gina — a Zustand Novel. 2020. translated by Anselm Franke, BOM DIA BOA TARDE BOA NOITE, 2022.