10 mai. 2022Lobsters, cradles and ice cream: A conversation with Tessy Bauer
Known for drawing on everyday objects and instilling them with a humorous touch, Tessy Bauer has a keen interest in making the banal surreal, arresting viewers of her work with her incongruous, absorbing combinations. Her latest piece is no exception. On show at CeCiL’s Box until 19th June, Homard Chéri features a lobster in a cradle being gently rocked back and forth. We caught up with the Brussels-based artist over Zoom to find out what the piece is all about.
Tessy Bauer, Homard Chéri, 2022 © Mike Zenari
Tessy, thanks for speaking to us! First of all, I have to ask – how did you come up with the idea of combining a lobster and a cradle in your latest installation Homard Chéri?
Well, I was invited to create a piece for CeCiL’s Box two years ago, but I was heavily pregnant at the time and had to turn the opportunity down. I asked them to approach me again further down the line and thankfully they did. The resulting piece is quite a personal one. As an artist, a woman and a mother of two children, I’ve felt myself metamorphosing recently. I wanted to express that by transforming an object and decided on a cradle.
I also have lots of childhood memories of the area around CeCiL’s Box. I remember walking through the Passage Place Guillaume when I was little and being really struck by all the lobsters and oysters on display at the traiteur. It felt like they were looking at me (laughs). When I started thinking about the piece I wanted to make, the lobsters came to mind straight away. So I ended up combining the cradle and the lobster in the installation.
The piece can also be read as a nod to Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Do you often draw on literature in your work?
Not consciously, but after creating a piece I often notice that certain references really make sense. In this case, the Kafka allusion was pretty clear from the beginning. You can just imagine a baby being replaced by a lobster overnight, just like how Gregor Samsa inexplicably wakes up as a huge beetle in Kafka’s novel. Also, if you look at art history, the lobster comes up again and again. It features in Salvador Dalí’s Lobster Telephone (1938) and in Jeff Koons’ Lobster (2003). It’s a fascinating animal. I read that lobsters get really old, like 70 years old, and can reproduce for that long too. All that kind of creates a myth around it. And it’s just a really impressive-looking animal, with its armour-like carapace.
Tessy Bauer, Homard Chéri, 2022 © Cercle Cité
Why did you choose use fabric to create the lobster?
I wanted there to be a contrast between the hard shell of the lobster and the soft velvety material that it’s made from. I like using unexpected materials, it introduces an element of surprise. I didn’t want the lobster to become a stuffed animal, though. That’s why I decided not to give it eyes. I literally spent weeks thinking about whether or not to add them (laughs). But then I decided that I don’t want my work to look at people. It’s a sculpture after all, not a cuddly toy.
How do you think Homard Chéri fits into your oeuvre as a whole?
When I work in three dimensions I usually start with objects that already exist and then change, add or remove something to create my works, like in my series Eis Eis Baby, where I use trophies and fill them with scoops of ice cream. What’s different about Homard Chéri is that I started with an idea, then came up with a drawing, followed by a plan and the pattern making phase. I’m not new to pattern making, but I’ve never built up volume before. There are more stages and it takes a lot longer. You have to create a model, then make it flat again, then transfer it to fabric… There are lots of technical challenges. But I really got into the flow. I read somewhere that if you do something you know with a small added challenge, that’s when you get excited about your work. And I have to say I had that the whole time I was working on the project. It was difficult but really empowering at the same time. It’s made me want to create more sculptures out of fabric.
Tessy Bauer, Eis Eis Baby © Tessy Bauer
That leads me onto my final question – are you working on any new projects at the moment?
I’m still digesting the lobster right now to be honest! I’m raring to go, but have learned to channel that energy and take the time to centre myself. I’m thinking of continuing the project in some way. There’s a space in Brussels, the CENTRALE - vitrine, where they also have a vitrine, similar to Cecil’s Box. And they’re looking for a piece with a link to the city. I started thinking about how I could build up a family of sculptures inspired by Homard Chéri… So that’s on the horizon at the moment.