In his fifth solo exhibition at Thomas Rehbein Galerie, winner of the Nordhorn Art Prize 2015 Benjamin Houlihan presents sculpture and drawing. In his work, the artist demonstrates a reflexive and playful approach to traditional art forms, questioning fixed ideas of the familiar while revealing new perspectives.
Wooden furniture and a piano manipulated by the artist reveal how creative processes of transformation and subtle twists can change the form of familiar objects, endowing them with entirely new aesthetic qualities and levels of meaning. In an elaborate act of craftsmanship—Houlihan sanded down wood to an extreme degree—the artist transformed the heavy subjects into fragile autonomous objects, his use of destructive means creating something new. Possessing practically no mass, the piano, folding chair, and two-door wall cabinet now appear as ephemeral silhouettes of their original shape. Wholly disassociated from their intended purpose, they can no longer fulfill their function. Concepts such as stability and robustness no longer apply to their new existence. At the same time, the objects’ initial shapes are clearly identifiable when visually perceived, prompting the viewer to supplement their properties of seating and storing in his mind. Taking the same approach when contemplating the grand piano that has been deprived of its resonating body and keys and thus silenced, the viewer imagines the sound it once emitted. It is remarkable how these sculptures, stretched to their material and static limits, seem to lose their three-dimensional qualities when viewed from different perspectives. Their reduced states appear as lines and shapes within the space. Gracefully, and with minimalistic ease, the objects oscillate between sculpture and drawing.
Houlihan’s drawings, however, present a sculptural dimension. Dynamic bright red spots of color hover weightlessly on paper. Accumulating, they create bulky, three-dimensional cloud-like structures. Having gained physical presence on a two-dimensional surface, these structures suggest a three-dimensionality where there is none. While Benjamin Houlihan’s works irritate and rattle our viewing habits, they also offer us an impressive and new visual experience.
(Miriam Walgate, 2016)