Talking Melancholy And Humour With Miguel Rothschild

Berlin-based artist Miguel Rothschild’s latest work ‘De Profundis’ is being shown at St. Matthew’s Church, Berlin. His suspended waves draw on the supreme power of nature and religion.

Using 1,500 eight meter long pieces of fishing wire, Rothschild hangs his sublime installation ‘De Profundis’ above the church altar. The piece can be seen as an extension to Rothschild’s 2017 piece ‘Elegy’ — both works are references to biblical psalms. ‘De Profundis’, which is on display in the church from now until March 30th, is a great cascading sheet of blue fabric that looks like falling water. The installation can be seen from the entrance of the church, helping to draw people in from the outside.

The artworks are made up of great swathes of dark blue fabric printed with patterns of the ocean. In ‘Elegy’, black lead balls hang beneath the fabric, giving the installation another dimension. A sleeping dog dangles under the sheet, seemingly unaware of the raging storm above his head. We spoke to the artist about his preoccupation with water and how he attempts to balance despair with hope in his art.


Water has remained a constant in your work. What attracts you to the element?

The sea for me is a multifaceted metaphor. The sea is perpetually mobile — a machine to create unrepeatable images. I am interested in the tension between surface and depth, or the sensation of serenity in constant threat. Another aspect I am interested in is how the German romantic movement saw the stormy sea as a reflection of an artist’s state of mind.

What other themes do you find repeated throughout your oeuvre?

Melancholy and humor — treated as two sides of the same coin — are perhaps the guiding thread of my art. In my work I develop different variants that, in one way or another, revolve around stereotypes related to the search for happiness. There is always a tragic component that comes from German Romanticism, which in my particular case is broken by humor and irony, which finally lends lightness to the tragedy. I try to laugh at myself and my own romantic attitude.


While the works you create are quite dark, they are also quite comforting. What do you hope people feel when they see the work?

“…I hope that the beauty becomes disturbing, even irritating to those who see it…”I would like there to be different reactions when people approach my work. First, I want them to feel attracted in a visual, tactile and sensory way… The beauty or curious sensuality of a work seems to me a very important factor when it comes to capturing and maintaining a visitor’s attention. Secondly, I hope that the beauty becomes disturbing, even irritating to those who see it, because if this unexpected transformation occurs, the observer will be forced to admit that the senses are not always reliable, giving way to reflection.



Can you explain your material choices?

I’m interested in friction, the tension between opposites. Giving everyday objects a divine connotation and vice versa. Taking the sacred and making it profane. For this reason I often use everyday materials such as shattered glass, fishing lines, straws, confetti, which, when taken out of context, obtain another unsuspected dimension. Through intervention and confrontation with new images, I want to question meanings: make light the tragic or grant deeper and more complex dimensions to the ordinary. It is an invitation to see with other eyes what surrounds us.

If I’m correct, De Profundis is a psalm which asks God for divine mercy. Does it matter whether people understand the religious context of these displays?

I believe that it is not exclusively necessary, since religious issues, when I touch upon them, are only a starting point. I try to show the human aspect of what is commonly considered divine. I try to offer a different perspective of all dogma. In this particular case, to create new earthly images around the Passion of Christ.

My reading is that the sea (located on the altar) acts as a stairway to heaven. I hung more than 1,500 fishing lines from the highest point of the apse to achieve this: these threads simulate a beam of light that floats in space and gives volume to the photograph of the sea printed on canvas. With a 850 x 400 cm piece of fabric I completely covered the altar, as if it is the great veil ‘velum quadragesimale’.

On the other hand, the sea can be interpreted as a waterfall on the nave of the church.



All images courtesy of © Miguel Rothschild

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