In the Universe of Simulation

Susanne Weiß, Director, Kunstverein Heidelberg

The fog parted and the ship glided into a moonlit landscape that was installed above the door to the room. drawing closer night by night to an illusory truth, the moon transformed the world into something semilucid, indistinct, creating an effect of strangeness and mystery. But the most mysterious part of all was that the moon, set alight by its illusion-obsessed owners, pulled the colors out of the room. What remained was a white space. Moreover, the white that returned by night not only took away its colors and divided the room into black and white, it also gave rise to abstract shapes by means of its own physical laws. By day, when the sun shone and gave the world its colors, the windows were obstructed with white paper curtains upon which the plants outside presented a shadow show for the visitors. The peacock, too, that strutted by once a day, pausing and transforming its body, could be perceived from the inside only as structure. Perplexed, not knowing whether the show was real or merely a figment of their imaginations, the viewers left the white room. Blinded by the sun, they rubbed their eyes and entered a garden that lay at the foot of a mountain range.

White is the primary color in the work of the artists Thomas & Renée Rapedius: white as a reflection of their thorough exploration of various materials, and as a way of focusing on the essential. But its antagonist, black, appears as well. The relationships between the two vary in their work: They polarize, overlap and melt into one another. It is white, for example, that spreads over the surfaces of their objects, and black chalk or ink that leads fluidly from one motif to the next.

The models for their abstracted and reduced representations are systems in nature, which they approach with a dissecting gaze as they develop their precise, minimal formal language. In accordance with the principle of mimicry, the artists make sketchpads into a stand of cacti, paper cups into an organic excrescence, a roll of paper into a mountain panorama, ordinary copier paper into a photorealistic mountain landscape, cardboard cartons into a palm grove and straws into a waterfall.

One could almost say that their works are divergent reproductions of their models. Mindful of the enrichment to be found in nature and her laws of repetition, the artists show us in an almost offhanded way how the cycle of appropriation and copy functions. With their associative method of duplication, they create a new, subjective reality that is free of all romantic idealization of nature—while simultaneously reminding us of its imaginary presence and the longing that entails.

In addition, their sculptures play with the relationship between the natural and the social: By using everyday objects such as paper cups, straws and cardboard cartons, the artists construct a frame of reference that resembles nature. It is the regimented individuality of our industrial society that the artists address and whose origins they seek in their work.

Thomas & Renée Rapedius’ objects are agile, hybrid entities that move between corporeality and materiality. Their mood is constituted from a sort of historical arsenal fed by cultural memories and models. It is not only the folded paper objects that delicately unfurls, adapts and takes over the wall in the same way Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet takes over the room, but also the objects reminiscent of cacti that becomes, in its permeability, a backdrop-like arrangement for the viewer. Like Schlemmer, who had the figures in his ballet move in geometric patterns, the artists make their objects dance on the existing parquet. The movement to be found in their works is due to their lightness. The many-layered orientation inherent in the objects enables them to transcend space.

Their objects are in a state of becoming, from one form to the next. A declination of structures, provided by nature, that they have translated into a language of their own. Thomas & Renée Rapedius address the perpetually transitory state of nature in the way they themselves are involved, through their works, in a transition in which the phenomenological shades into the virtuality of the imaginary. Their aesthetically constructed reality resembles a fiction that tends to merge with one’s own imagination. It is a double image that moves and changes with the space and the viewer.

Looking at their works, one sees that these cultivate intimate relationships with one another. It is a virtual storm of associations and a game with form and color that “unfolds,” in the truest sense of the word, before the viewer. The forms follow universal laws and arise from a long-standing preoccupation with the representation of landscape and nature. The tension between order and chaos generates a dynamic feedback loop. This dynamic is of great importance for the understanding of the work. The observation of aesthetically similar structures in nature gave rise to the study of chaos and the quest for an underlying formula of similarities and self-similarities. Only through magnification and repetition do certain natural phenomena become perceptible. Not only do Thomas & Renée Rapedius’ sculptural works reflect this basic principle, their delicate drawings pursue it as well. From their observation of the world arises a formal universe of simulation, rich in ideas, on which they have set no bounds.

Translation: Patrick Hubenthal