Nicole Wermers, P4aM2aRF!

13 January 2023 By

Herald St, London
3 November 2022 – 11 February 2023

 

For many Western art history students, the reclining figure is one of the most popular poses to study. From the paintings of Titian and Giorgione to the works of Manet, Rodin, Henry Moore et al – art books are filled with images of women lying on beds and sofas. In the case of the Artist, all are men; concerned with the female body and offering a specific view of it. The new works by Nicole Wermers in her exhibition, P4aM2aRF! (‘Proposal for a Monument to a Reclining Female!’), invite a radically different representation of the female body in public space.

 

Historically, reclining figures in public sculptures are placed on pedestals directly on the floor. In this exhibition I find myself surrounded by large-scale, female sculptures placed on high pedestals made using cleaning trolleys. The female bodies lie elegantly on their elbows, reclining without effort. Here, the usual objectification transforms into an appreciation of the female figure. Wermers’s work appears unbound, free from a literal and metaphorical ‘grounding’ that offers a female intervention on an art historical tradition. It is the first time that she uses figuration in this way.

 

All figures are placed on top of commercial cleaning trolleys, with each trolley precisely arranged to hold a stack of neatly folded towels, cleaning products, and general home cleaning items. These objects are readymade, designed for efficiency but instead used here to reference the less visible and underpaid work that women carry out. The contrast between the intense white plaster of the female figures compared to the clash of colours from the trolleys show Wermers’s power to transform things into sculptural form: to combine, make, and arrange objects into sculptures.

 

Appearances and constructions shift swiftly in this exhibition. The figures are all made of plaster – a material which dries extremely quickly and requires the artist to execute the work in a matter of minutes. The restriction of the material gives Wermers the possibility to create a parallel between her privileged work as an artist and the work of the many women who clean and care for us in public and private spaces. A type of work that must be executed within minutes to remain invisible. Drawing upon themes of labour and care makes these sculptures emblematic and contributes to a discourse which makes this work much more than an art historical intervention. The Monument proposed in the title of her exhibition becomes an homage to all of those engaged with care and maintenance. It puts forward the perspective of the people who maintain, organise, and manage space. Here these people are not only ‘reclining’ but afforded the dignity of rest.

 

Curator of National Programmes
Ilaria Puri Purini

 

Be sure to check out our breakfast talk by artist Nicole Wermers in conversation with art historian and curator Penelope Curtis at Herald St.

Herald Street, 2 Herald St, E2 6JT
Opening Times: Tuesday to Saturday 11am – 6pm
Exhibition open until 11 February 2023