Trinkets on Trellis

Miriam Schmitz

Jan 20th - Mar 1st, 2024
Opening / Jan 19th, 7PM

Textile and interior as material and subject, covering and veiled: this tension is decisive for Miriam Schmitz's works in general. Now going a step further, in “Trinkets on Trellis“ this tension serves as an image of thought, transforming textiles and interiors into carriers of forgotten memories, fueled by desire and imagination. Simultaneously, it serves as a highly contemporary commentary on structural questions of taste and economy. Not at least, the artist develops a poetics of object, reflexively addressing its history and the conditions of its actual creation.

That the sculptural object is not assumed as precondition but becomes the very question in these recent works is immediately apparent. At first glance, the works may seem like a mix of materials, constructions of various items both found and purchased, collected and crafted. However, this heterogeneity converges into a cohesive sculptural logic within each object. The “Nestled Lights“ for instance, that twinkle from the gallery walls, embody precisely what the exhibition title declares: artisanal trinkets of condensed craftsmanship. Hence, it would be a misunderstanding to primarily attribute an assemblage character to the artist’s works. The question of objecthood is more delicate, more sophisticated.

This concerns, first and foremost, the material basis of the works. With an entire arsenal of found and collected fabrics in reserve, Schmitz demonstrates how production and circulation in contemporary art form one and the same process. The origin of these found and collected items thus becomes a fleeting memory, merging into the respective work, serving as both a trace of former use and a part of an independent sculptural logic. In doing so, the unity of the objects is guaranteed through different, nevertheless mainly textile techniques: folding, stretching, knotting, draping. This not only includes a highly tactile component but also allows different materials to be juxtaposed without merely being contradictory. Not unlike the transformative approach to materials and patterns cultivated in high fashion by Jun Takahashi, in “Beneath Jasmine“ the variation of a Burberry can be draped onto a subtly muted cupro, forming a basket, complete only with brim and stuff.

The rhetoric of such connections is intertwined with questions of taste and the connection to different social milieus, different biographical settings, in short: the question of the structural dimension of aesthetic judgments. However, various speeds also collide. In “An Arresting Listen“ a black-and-white check is subtly spread on a seat stool, meticulously sewn with opulently stacked fabric layers. In contrast, a voluminous slightly faded Flokati, combined with moss-green teddy fabric, fills the space. The extravagance of a John Galliano's haute couture versus textiles as a tool of hacking the everyday and fast consumption á la Pinterest.

Various economies of dealing with textiles are thus negotiated. But even more, sculpture becomes stage, bringing up questions of use and its historicity. In “SoHo Witch“ for instance, the two main elements of the sculpture with their shimmering aluminum surfaces resemble the Psyché mirrors produced in Art Deco. But at the same time the overarching formal structure of the work is reminiscent of the Vanity dressing table by Poltrona Frau, in-thing in Italy’s 1960s.

However, such layering of different styles cannot be reduced to a purely connoisseur-like play with iconographic references. Rather, in understanding sculptures as “Meubles“ questions about perspectives of art and design, fashion and interior as means of contemporary everyday life are condensed. Furthermore, a poetics of object is expanded into a poetics of interior and inner life itself. Many of the recent works are characterized by a conception of space that consistently eludes the probing gaze: a stash, a den, an abditory. In “Beneath Jasmine“ a small basket hidden behind a curtain of plastered wall panels, in “SoHo Witch“ a bulbous interior darkened by fumé glass, delicately combined with the light of Viennese wickerwork.

This might be connected to the term “box“ [coffret] as formulated by Gaston Bachelard. Here, memory becomes topographical: all major memory is “enclosed in a little box.“ What is thus enclosed is both intimate and identity-forming: “Pure memory, an image that is uniquely ours, is something we don’t want to share. One may confess some details only. But its very essence belongs to us, and we never want to reveal everything about it.“ It is this moment of individual memory that is evocatively brought to life by the recent works of Miriam Schmitz, a memory that we not only want to keep private in its intimacy but must, and that is so unforgettable that we understand it all the better the more it lies inside of us. However, while Bachelard does not avoid a certain sentimentality, this aspect here is opened through that complex layering of references, appearing in the intimacy of individual memory as the transience of possible futures. A poetics of interior as question: How do we want to dwell (within ourselves)?

Sebastian Hammerschmidt