The Pursuit of Superhuman Randomness: How Emil Lukas Elevates the Everyday to the Otherworldly

Heather Corcoran
Oct 29, 2014 2:38PM

Many artists work with studio assistants, but Emil Lukas’s are a little smaller than most. To create some of his densely layered compositions, the artist actually collects larvae and allows their movement to dictate the work. This pursuit of superhuman randomness—a working method that allows the process to play perhaps even more of a role than the artist’s hand—is apparent in much of his art, whether that means working with living creatures as collaborators or layering countless pieces of string to create the color variations seen in his sculptural thread paintings. 

Together with Durham Press, the Pennsylvania-based artist has created a suite of prints titled Bubble Up, which reimagines his unique art-making process as works on paper. These two-dimensional interpretations of his often (deceptively) three-dimensional work will be on display at the IFPDA Print Fair this fall. Lukas’ works on view are triptychs, which combine monoprints made using etching and screen-printing techniques. The prints reference his other studio works while presenting the forms seen in his main series: dots, lines, and squiggles. 

The dot prints are made using bubble wrap to create soft-ground etchings. But unlike the polka dots of Damien Hirst or the Ben-Day dots of Roy Lichtenstein, Lukas is not interested in creating the perfect circle in these prints. Instead, the eye is drawn to the landscape-like peaks and valleys created by the crinkled plastic bubbles. 

His printed interpretation of his thread works also deviate from convention. While the original shadow-box like thread compositions highlight the glowing surface he’s able to create using only the sheer accumulation—up to a mile in length—of straight lines, the thread prints are made through the piling up of layers and layers of screen prints in different colors. 

A similar technique is used to create the frost-like patterns of his larva prints, in which the marks made by moving larvae, as well as washes of ink, are layered through the silk screen process. The resulting images, as with his other series, do little to belie their making. Instead, the everyday is quietly elevated to the otherworldly. 

Heather Corcoran

Visit Durham Press at the IFPDA Print Fair 2014, New York, Booth 303, Nov. 5th–9th.

Explore IFPDA Print Fair 2014 and Durham Press on Artsy.

Images courtesy Durham Press and the artist.