Throughout ‘Butterfly Doubt’, the new presentation of drawings by Roni Horn at London’s Hauser & Wirth, many of the artist’s familiar trademarks are present. While Horn’s drawings are perhaps the less immediately familiar aspect of the artist’s oeuvre Horn has always maintained their importance to her overall practice, informed by her work with sculpture and photography. The show at Hauser & Wirth features work from three recent series, spread out across both galleries, and frequently feels like an exercise in meticulous technique as well as an exploration of Horn’s recurrent thematic territories.
The ‘Or’ series from 2014 is a useful starting point to think about the exhibition, not least because of the three series here, it feels like the one which can (and does) most comfortably stand on its own independent from the others. Horn’s interest in weather systems and her almost sculptural approach to cutting up and reassembling plates of drawings lie behind these striking large scale tessellations. From a distance, the works immediately suggest the kind of cloud formations and storm patterns Horn has explored elsewhere, most famously with her ongoing travels to Iceland.
When viewed from close up though, the works take on another character, as the carefully cut lines and tiny annotations between the small shapes come more clearly into focus and begin to speak to their complex construction. The fluidity suggested from a distance gives way to a much more multifarious picture, and there is a sense that the artist herself is mapping her own images here, making notes and plotting a course along the way.
In the North Gallery are two series, ‘Hack Wit’ and ‘Remembered Words.’ The former greets the viewer as they enter, twenty-four constructions which all feature phrases cut up into a sort of pseudo-beat poetry. The often nonsensical lines, with their playful alliterative or phonic ticks also seem to transform when viewed up close. In a similar way to the works in the ‘Or’ series, these pieces demonstrate an incredible intricacy, where each appears to have its own unique patterned form.
In the adjoining room, ‘Remembered Words’ features fifteen sets of nine by nine grids. As the accompanying press release mentions, they immediately suggest lepidopterists’ cases, hinting at an almost scientific approach to language not unlike the other works on show. One set in particular, ‘Remembered Words – (Milk)’ (2013) feels like the hinge with which to approach both this series and the one preceding it. Composed mostly of white and cream dots, with much brighter colours almost smothered beneath them, the work is starling in its twisted minimalism, and somehow manages to touch on the central nerve which all the other works in the exhibition allude to.
While the works in ‘Butterfly Doubt’ sometimes feel like they operate on two levels, the detail of their construction and less the tangible world of their thematic concerns, it’s the technical aspect which perhaps leaves the most lingering impression. For those more accustomed to Horn’s sculptural works, these three series provide a fascinating alternative route into the artist’s practice.