Writing is not my greatest strength: I became a sculptor, after all, not a writer. But if I try to retrace the origins of my wire sculptures, the thread of memory leads directly back to the internal world of the early cardboard sculptures. Generating an amorphous form from a static material necessitates an understanding of the principles of inner structure and external cover--skeleton and skin. Similarly, the zeppelin demonstrates that a skeletal structure by itself can describe the shape and volume of the entire form. This may sound simple and obvious. Nevertheless, in a drawing of a zeppelin, the individual lines, their paths, and the net-like structure they depict present an illusion of plasticity. We often forget the high degree of abstraction occurring on a two-dimensional sheet of paper: the curving horizontal and vertical lines suggesting a three-dimensional form to us, while supplying precise information about the border between the object and the external world. Lines are minimal shorthand for complex plastic forms.
These principles and possibilities can be taken a step further, with the generation of three-dimensional drawings inscribed within one another: a little bit like the principle of the babushka. For instance: ... A drawing in a drawing - only three dimensional. But how can a plastic form be described by simple bent lines in space? The artist employs very different methods from those of the engineer or mathematician. To depict a bowl, he needs only an ellipse and an arc of a circle. The artist thrives on the confluence of abstraction and meaning. Unfortunately, laundry machines are much more complex than simple bowls. Computer design programs are useful in that they apply uniform net structures to objects--so-called “wire frames.” The superior descriptive powers of these lattices become obvious when the designed object is virtually rotated. With a wire sculpture, while the circumstances are reversed--the object remains still while the viewer circles around it-- the optical effect is the same. Of particular importance to me is this question: how many lines are necessary to describe the edges and surfaces of an object in space? There is always a compromise between the sum of lines and plasticity, the ideal balance lying somewhere between an austere economy and the luxury of detail. Consider a ball, for instance. How many circles are necessary to depict it? Two? Three? Or does it need meridians--lines of longitude and latitude--like on a globe? With these we can grasp the ball’s surface, but what if we want to view both the interior and exterior simultaneously?
When Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical drawings first became public, society was shocked to see the human body described as a mechanical structure. However, 500 years later, a transparent human presently stands in the Dresden Museum of Hygiene. But even if all these things are now known to us, even though we can look with astonishment at see-through laundry machines and cameras in shop windows, certain individual parts remain opaque and resistant to the penetration of our gaze.
Hypothetically, if every part of an object were made of glass, our eye would find no anchor. In order to distinguish each part visually, we need to analyze the space where the material object ends and the surrounding air begins. As in technical drawings, clothing patterns, floor plans, and blueprints, the essential edges are depicted with lines. Any true visual penetration--one which includes all possible views and perspectives--is imaginable only if the object exists as a three-dimensional totality, as a drawing in space. Only this can enable the penetration of the world.
NIKOLAI B. FORSTBAUER
In the beginning there was the line
Or at least there prevailed such unconditional terms that the line was able to articulate surfaces, bodies, and figures. It is conceivable that an entire vocabulary of forms could develop from this, using the line as a starting point for crossing boundaries and making implicit demands on the making of art.
But what does Thomas Raschke do? “Somehow he gives things back to me,” says Sebastian Rogler, a longtime art companion. The things to which he refers are those ubiquitous objects so familiar to us that we have only to perceive their shapes peripherally, or hear their names, to recall an entire range of forms. Raschke’s project therefore begins with the psychology of forms and the mental processes by which we may interpret two drawn ovals, for example, as a dinner plate. The artist also frames the contradictory issue of how forms in space are created using lines that have no actual volume of their own. Lastly, we must consider what kind of approach is necessary (and what role art needs to play in this) in categorizing and physically understanding the world of things that the West produces in immense quantities and contradictory variety.
In the beginning there was the line, which camouflaged itself in surfaces, in corporeal things, in figurations. At first it was a question of the outer edges of things, but “they still did not have any innards,” as Raschke put it. Perfection in exacting detail can be seductive, with countless points of intersection giving rise to a form paying tribute to the thing. But today, Raschke is confident that the attempt in itself is enough: in his own words, “As little line as possible.” This does not prevent Raschke from pursuing the line to its end: in photographs he has made of the net structures underlying typical computer-animated images the so-called “wire frames” which in his work become the creative equivalent of video stills.
But how are Raschke’s things which we may call “workbench” or “drilling machine” created? Looking around a artist’s studio or workshop, one will surely find a piece of wire, a three-dimensional line that can be used (if one is experienced enough) to produce a drawing in space. Soldering keeps the entity together, creating a framework for future continual “growth.” Further, the draftsman Raschke can be seen observing the work of the sculptor Raschke: “I take measurements from the original,” he says. “I build, I take photographs and I draw 1:1.” The space sinks back into the surface and still elicits new dreams of space.
“Somehow he gives things back to me.” This statement implies a need to pause and contemplate the thing, to make oneself sure of the familiar, and to confirm what these objects are about and how they are made. A lot can be discovered in a workshop: drilling tools, a workbench, an almost iconic vacuum tube radio, and much more. Soldering, smoothing, cutting all kinds of activities are possible in such a workshop. Before any discussion of artistic expression can start, intellectually at least, the borders between sculpture, installation and Raschke’s “drawings in space” must be forgotten.
A few of Raschke’s wire works were shown in exhibitions of the art group Das Deutsche Handwerk in Stuttgart and Berlin in recent years. It is clear that any artist who forges artworks within the context of Das Deutsche Handwerk [The German Craftsmanship] would not wish to give up his beloved workshop. Consequently, Raschke temporarily transplanted his Berlin workshop to the Rainer Wehr Gallery in Stuttgart last September. The installation included the artist’s version of the gallery owner’s vacuum cleaner, exhibited in a room where it dominated the scene. Seemingly “grown” organically from a collection of soldered wires, the object could be seen as a vacuum cleaner or a little pet. Or perhaps, rather, a drawing that built itself.