HS Projects presented a group of works by acclaimed British artist Tania Kovats. Kovats is renowned for producing sculptures, large scale installations and temporal works which explore our experience and understanding of landscape, and finds in the natural world both her subject and material. She approaches the natural environment both in terms of identifiable places – sites that can be mapped, named, inhabited and scrutinised – and as matter with properties that can be subjected to external forces and potential transformations.
Kovats’ barnacle-encrusted ‘Colony’, 2009 developed from her 2009 residency in the Galapagos Islands. Fascinated by barnacles as creatures that dwell – both literally and figuratively – in the spaces between sea and land, rock and animal, and liquid and solid, the artist also discovered, within their capacity to self-generate and form colonies, a metaphor for the rapid social, urban, and ecological developments occurring on Galapagos.
Kovats’ ‘Tilted’, 2002 exposes the artist’s keen interest in the rugged drama of coastal landscapes. Contained within the exposed rock cliff faces, are turbulent geological forces, which cut a stark line between light and dark, interior and exterior. By embedding the cliff within the architecture of a modernist plinth, Kovats uses an element of the landscape to attack the solidity of the white cube, subjecting it to the forces by which it was created. This ‘tilted’ cliff, as a boundary between land and sea, alludes to Kovats’ interest in oceans, a topic that comes to preoccupy much of her later work.
In her series of ‘Schist’, 2001 sculptures, Kovats’ use of wax, a material that is both responsive and malleable, allows for works that ooze and sweat, stretching in ways that result in physical abnormalities. Exhibited at a height at which they can be closely studied, Kovats encourages the eye to follow the layers of wax as they ripple and undulate, as well as the flakes of glitter which intersperse the coloured folds. On viewing these metamorphic sculptures, one becomes aware of Kovats’ exploration of both the artificial and the organic. To make these works, Kovats used ‘Mountain’, 2001, the design of which she based on a machine invented around 1900. Kovats poured colours of molten wax into the machine, allowing it to cool and set into sedimentary layers. She subsequently placed lead shot on top of the strata to act like a gravitational force to contain the layers, so that when she turned the mechanism’s handle, the piston, moving forward with a force like a tectonic plate, compressed the wax into hulking folds and ripples.
‘Tilted’ was at 5 Howick Place from March to October 2015.