‘It’s blob, it’s lasercut, it breathes, it moves, it’s alive’. In 2005, Australian artist Michael Kutschbach participated in the Rohkunstbau XII exhibition Kinderszenen (Child’s Play) at Gross Leuthen Castle (an erstwhile orphanage) near Berlin with twelve international artists including Louise Bourgeois, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Laura Ford and Marcel Dzama.
Kutschbach’s Kinderszenen work uschi and irvin make merry masquerades [sheeping sleep] (2005) - a floor installation of his trademark sculptural biomorphic forms and a DVD projection with equally quirky ‘blob music’ soundtrack by Duann Scott – was notable on a number of levels. A preoccupation with surface (albeit a surface in flux, ‘capable of infinite adaptation, manipulation and transformation’) dominates his oeuvre. Yet the unequivocally white and unembellished sculptural objects for Kinderszenen – created during a Berlin winter, when the city was shrouded in snow – represented an uncharacteristic repudiation of colour and ‘skin’, since Kutschbach has repeatedly demonstrated that he is an accomplished colourist.
Although the multi-award winning Kutschbach has typically given his works idiosyncratic titles that are without significance, unusually ‘uschi’ refers to his German mother and Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. was the director of the 1958 cold-war, sci-fi film The Blob. Punchier and funnier than its predecessors, the mostly monochromal globules of the 2003 strawberry ut’s (trudy’s turn) animation made way in uschi and irvin make merry masquerades for colourful and variously-patterned biomorphs that sensuously hover, divide, amalgamate, multiply, metamorphose. Momentarily resembling old-fashioned carpet bowls, several were differentiated by an assertive black spot, suggesting the possibility of a more sinister reading (viruses, diseased cells), but Kutschbach is adamant that his animations are intended as ‘upbeat’ works.
With the benefit of hindsight, it seems paradoxical that Kutschbach’s ongoing blob aesthetic made its first appearance in 1998 as a painting – the consequence of a gestural mark, made with the heel of the artist’s hand (an interesting genesis, given his subsequent and systematic distancing-strategy). There were for example, no perceptible brush strokes in the luscious automotive-glossy surfaces and intense chromatics that characterised the sweet violet series (2001), in which several of the paintings insinuated themselves around the corners of the gallery – thereby anticipating a heightened emphasis on a more liquid materiality.
In a satirical reference to the perjorative critical use of the expression ‘wallpaper’, the evolution of Kutschbach’s biomorphs achieved a satisfying sense of circularity in late 2005 with the exhibition at Adelaide’s Greenaway Art Gallery of eight metres of computer-generated wallpaper, inscribed with multiple blob motifs (a resolution paralleled in the comparable evolution of the blob-motif’s negative, cartoon-like outline).
With deceptive effortlessness, the elliptical trajectory of Kutschbach’s fluid and ever-evolving practice migrates seamlessly between disparate media – painting, works on paper, sculpture, installation, DVD animation. The use of the term ‘masquerade’ in the title of the work for Kinderszenen is instructive, since in the manner of his animated, chameleon globules that sheath themselves in alternating colours and patterns, Kutschbach enduringly masks a serious and intensive investigation of surface and form, necessitating labour-intensive methods of production, with an engaging veneer of playfulness.
Wendy Walker, 2006
Walker, Wendy. Michael Kutschbach (profile), Contemporary 2006 Annual, 2006