Grass stalks and horse hair, the unorthodox sculpting materials of Christiane Löhr
Christiane Löhr, born in 1965 in Wiesbaden, is a visual artist, who, having studied under Jannis Kounellis in 1996, has since held solo and collective exhibitions across the globe and is the recipient of several awards and scholarships.
One thing is clear, the artist’s practice is very much rooted in the natural elements which surround her, using plant seeds, burrs, grass stalks, tree blossoms, and horsehair to create sculptures which restructure these natural elements into delicate yet gothic forms. She tells us how she believes that this way of working came about, “because I used to ride a horse, I was often together with the horse in nature and I think that this filtered into my art language.”
“To work with these materials was not an idea or a concept it just came from my life, it began very much by chance, I held these materials in my hands and they slowly crept into my artworks… It took me a long time for me to call these sculptures art,” she says.
However the influence of Jannis Kounellis, a trailblazer of Arte Povera, clearly influenced the work of Löhr as well, “it was very important to have met Jannis,” “I don’t think that my work is directly in the Arte Povera genre, however when I was very young I looked a lot at art books and catalogues that talked about Arte Povera as well as Minimalism and Conceptual art.” In more direct terms, the ideology of Arte Povera does not underpin the basis of Löhr’s work, however, the tradition of natural materials is very much present, a reflection of the organic minimalism that we see also in the work of Kounellis.
When explaining the technicalities of her work, Löhr places emphasis on the organic nature of her practice. “I never use glue, I try to work with the inherent constructive elements of my materials,” she says, “they are very fragile, if you make a wrong move they could be destroyed.” However the fragility of Lohr’s work is almost paradoxical, in bringing order to the delicate materials, a new strength is created, the pieces appearing like architectural structures and allowing them to resist the risks of travel and time “is not a problem to ship the works to the US or Japan. In all the years that I’ve been working with these pieces, I have always found a way to take them around. I also discovered that they have a very long lifespan, when I am gathering these materials I am taking them out of the cycle of growth and decay. They become dry and nothing is retained, the color may change a little, the green will fade away but the form will not change anymore.”
This sensibility to the way in which Löhr regards her work has made her very popular in Asia, she has just closed an exhibition in Japan at the end of last year. “I have been working in Japan for a while now. There is very good relationship between the work I create and the Asian way of thinking and looking. It is very important for works to cross borders — my work is well read in Japan despite it being a product of my European experiences.”