The thoughtfully composed solo show of Florian Graf at the Kunst Halle Sank Gallen, in the East of Switzerland – not far from the Austrian and German border – stands out in its precise execution and its poetic consistency. Reflections on music and architecture transform this site-specific assembly of works not only into a visible cadence-parcours but also get the spectator to think of its own body presence inside space. Graf’s interests are within the human perception of built space, urban surroundings and how humans interact with it, in their daily life.
At Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen, he created a repertoire of three different forms; the Tower-House, the Portal-Gibbet and the Flat-Storey. These three diverse forms are presented in three different scales and materializations, appearing in, again, three variable spaces within the ‘Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen’. The spectator is able to pursue a transformation of the repetition of this trio of forms into different contexts of spatial surroundings, by name: the architectural public space, the cosy, intimate space and the artificial nature-space. Analogies between music theory and architectural theory are important to Graf. So are the titles of the works named after the syllables do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do. The precise interlocking of musical structures and spatial patterns are central in this show.
In the first room of this little parcours, through the declination of space at large, the three forms appear as column, passage and building. But when you let your eyes wander and look at this massive hall more closely, you can see that, in fact, the architectural sculptures are hiding its contents: Graf’s forms are containing the actual columns that support the ceiling of ‘Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen’, which is turning the sculptures literally into carriers of the space itself.
As you pass through the second room, you find yourself in a living room-like arranged room, with walls painted in grandma-style color, occupied with grandma-style furniture. There is even a letter from Florian Graf, addressed to the dear spectator, telling about how nice it is to finally meet. The three forms are to be found transformed into small ceramic objects, decorating the staged living space. You are now able to survey the portal, house and storey in a bird’s eye view, feeling exceedingly tall.
And at last, you enter the third room – by the way, the repeated immersion of the number ‘3’ is, according to Graf, a visualization of a musical cadence – and are being confronted with grave-like sculptures that are growing flowers, spitting water and gathering blown off esoteric candles. Again, also the three colors are to be found here: yellow, green and lilac, which Graf chose from the surrounding buildings of the ‘Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen’. Our three basic forms are now altered into highly reflecting, super aesthetic chromed steel scultures. The human scale they are taking up, are letting the spectator to be in eye-sight with himself, self-displayed on the mirroring surface of the shiny chromium steel.
I had the chance to ask Florian Graf some questions regarding the correlation of music and architecture in his work.
Bianca Pedrina: In your current exhibiton at ‘Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen’ you made an intervention of a repertoire consisting of three different approaches to spatial objects, which again is made visible in working with a trio of forms; the ‘Tower-House’, the ‘Portal-Gibbet’ and the ‘Flat-Storey’. Did this higly transformatorical assortation of forms also lead to a self reflection or to a transformation of yourself in the production process?
Florian Graf: These processes are protracted and characterized by a very intensive analysis and workprocess. These developments, that occur when working with it, are conciously and physically experienced transformations. So yes, they are quite existential. But what the result is that I would make out of it, I can’t tell you yet.
The title of your show is Chamber Music with which you are pointing out the bridges between architecture and music – what role are these three generated forms playing for you?
Music theory has always been the theory of proportion as well, so actually music is mathematics and geometry equally. And that’s the point, there it all begins: in the relation between space and time, between static and dynamic, between ‘eternally valid’ laws and the sounding moment.
On what aspect between musical and architectural theory in particular did you want to focus on with this exhibition?
I grew up with music, there has always been music in our home, musicians, rehearsals, talks about music. This was the daily routine in our house. For a long time I also made music: Piano, drums, singing, jazz school, music theory, aural theory, harmonics et cetera.
A live without music was absolutely not imaginable. However I started to study architecture and ended up becoming an artist. For quite some time I dealt with synesthetic ideas, from Alexander Skrjabin to John Cage and so on. I almost started to write a doctoral thesis on architecture and music. That’s of course when I was confronted with the problem of the ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ which, in combination with holistic thinkers like Patrick Geddes or Rudolf Steiner, proccupied me a lot (I grew up in Basel which is not far at all from Steiner’s ‘Goetheamum’). So, eventually I began to separate the two, the aural/auditive and the visual because they both operate very different, even if we speak of ‘tone color’ in music or ‘tonality’ in chromatics. Architecture is solidfied music – I read this from Schlegel (or was it Schopenhauer?) – however. I always considered this as very poetic. Architecture and sound, structure and surface, construction and color, drawing and painting. We are constructing theoretical poles so that we are able to understand certain mechanisms, or at least so that we can appoint mysterious relationships and energy flows. And probably I would describe these things or write about it, but just to quote Wittgenstein: about the things we can not speak, we must remain silent. Or just making art, and let the things sound for themselves.
Florian Graf – Chamber Music is on view at the Kunst Halle Sank Gallen until June 28, 2015.
Photographs courtesy of Kunst Halle Sank Gallen.