Melanie Ender | to open closed forms,
text by Manisha Jothady, 2018
Bend, stretch, fold, lay, lean, fill, cover. It is above all actions of this kind that predominate when one contemplates Melanie Ender’s sculptural work. The artist works mainly with plaster, brass and textiles. Fabrics are folded geometrically into variable basic forms, brass rods bent into curve-like constructs, plaster nestles into brass tubes, plaster sheets are turned into floor slabs, or into pedestals for coded-like constructions of brass rods, over which the folded fabrics balance.
The combination of such different materials generates tense polarities between compactness and fragility, wholeness and fragment, emptiness and density. While this describes classical parameters of creative sculptural work, Melanie Ender is extremely adept at ensuring that her work evades a static concept of art, accentuating the processual and unfinished. When considering the works and how they are arranged in space, then it comes as no surprise that an impression of flexibility and variability arises. One is inclined to read the artist’s arrangements as experimental setups, the single pieces of which are loosely – when at the same time well considered – connected to one another and appear movable at any time. It is thus only consequential when the artist characterises her settings as “situations” and “sculptural snapshots”. Multipart setups, in which elementary geometrical forms are rhythmically set in different variations, are characteristic for individual work groups. Here the legacy of Minimal Art resonates somewhat, but Ender’s artistic approach is far removed from the style that, doing it all it could to avoid the signature of the subjective, obeyed calculating, soberly rational, objective principles.
The process is an important component of Melanie Ender’s art and directs the gaze to those actions the artist carries out when she sets and arranges the objects. This is underscored by the English work titles, for instance “bending lines”, “stretching points”, “to open closed forms”. In comparison to the traditional repertoire of sculpturing, here action is positioned contrary to the statuary and the pose. This too has its antecedents in modern and contemporary art history. Conceiving sculpture to be a form of action enabled the medium to be liberated from its rigidity. Including the visiting public, whose (inter-) action completed the work, was part of the aesthetic programme.
Melanie Ender’s arrangements defy any links to these kinds of strategies however. The performative manifesting in her works stems rather from a creative drive that is ignited directly by the inherent qualities of the employed materials.
The tactile and body-related, which merges with sculpture as a form of action, nevertheless takes on an important role in Ender’s work. Key examples of this are her conceptual-poetic text works, wherein she generates a compelling vividness through acrobatic turns of phrase. “actions to enter to open closed forms” is the title of a text from 2017 that seems perfect for relaying the conceptual foundation of the current exhibition. It contains directives as amusing as they are absurd, for instance “lick a rectangel’s angels” and “use a sharp tongue”.
For Ender, language is a malleable material. Language not only describes things but indeed first enables them to come into existence. Through the linguistic enlivening of sculptural action the artist subverts the supposed discrepancy between sign-like language and material objectness. In this way she opens up not least the possibility of a repositioning, namely from the usually distanced viewer position into the very inner of the works.