Centrum, Reuterstrasse 8, 12053, Berlin

  • nicoll ullrich Detail inside
    Title : nicoll ullrich Detail inside
  • nicoll ullrich Detail sink light
    Title : nicoll ullrich Detail sink light
  • nicoll ullrich Wide view centre
    Title : nicoll ullrich Wide view centre
  • nicoll ullrich large view right wood
    Title : nicoll ullrich large view right wood

Nicoll Ullrich, review by Eliza Apperly

Opened in June of this year, Centrum, Berlin offers a creative cultural forum for artists, musicians and local people. Recently entering its second season, directors Kate Squires and David Moynihan offered a residency and exhibition opportunity to German artist Nicoll Ullrich.

Trained in painting, Ullrich’s current work is now predominantly sculptural with an overriding interest in raw materials. Her installation at Centrum, a single piece dominating the white-washed space, concentrates in abundance upon eclectic matter. Narrow cuts of black painted wood frame the central arrangement, where strips of leather and plastic and long, smooth, almost liquid, spreads of paper form the mixed-media base to further, meticulously positioned accessories of texture and of light. An upturned metal sink rests alongside the leather, positioned at a jarred angle with a pile of thick logs in its hollow basin. Beyond the paper, standing vertically against the far wall is a bright red strip-light, illuminating the installation in place of the normal studio light fixtures, which UIlrich temporarily un-wired.

Amid the heady visual medley of material plenitude and contrasts, Ullirich’s priority, she explains, is to focus attention on the material per se - its textures, its density, its most integral matter, as disassociated from its conventional usage or forms. She uses the example of bone to explain her concept. When we think of bones, we tend to envisage a linear form, an outline, a cartoonish skeleton perhaps, but these automatic structural analogies divert attention from the substance itself. Ullrich subverts the associations of material, therefore, to allow us to consider the material itself. In the Centrum configuration, then, paper becomes the stuff of flooring and of a temporary ‘wall’, whilst the sink base is upturned at such an angle so as to radically disguise its standardised function.

As with former works, such as Ullrich’s reconstruction of Yuka Oyama’s studio (2009), objets trouvés have their place. The plastic and leather are hardware store off-cuts whilst upon the logs in the sink rests a fluorescent green mop-end, happened upon and promptly incorporated into the Centrum configuration like some soft, luminous coral against the stark metal sink and richly rustic log-pile.

Interested in the stuff of sculptural creation, the very ‘things’ of craftsmanship and artistry, Ullrich delights in rough, rudimentary matter. Uneven edges and bit-parts characterise her assemblage to privilege raw material and constructive process. Alongside its base media, so too does Ullrich emphasise the very apparatus of the Centrum piece. Flimsy threads of string, metal G-clamps and even peeling sticky-tape are all apparent as she foregrounds the fittings, trappings and tools of her material miscellany.

Rejecting any refined, or finite, product, Ullrich’s installation cherishes the temporary construct. As with all her previous projects the creation is customised to her particular working space and at the end of the Centrum residency will be dismantled. Elements may be recycled and re-integrated into future assignments, but the structure in its integrity is fleeting - or, perhaps, unfinished. Amid the arbitrary and unusual pairings of materials and their attributes, and the conscious exposure of their assembly, Ullrich strives above all towards that peculiar tension between production and product, between permanence and fragility, towards a delicate dilemma of ‘touch-don’t touch’.

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