Jorinde Voigt’s first solo exhibition in Milan and her second with Lisson Gallery features medium- to large-scale drawings and a new collaboration with Mads Dinesen, an influential young fashion designer based in Berlin, on a series of hand-painted and embroidered Things to Wear. Voigt, who also lives and works in Berlin, creates significant and highly original drawn or painted abstract forms that are intricately interconnected by lines of text or movement. Her new series, carefully wrought in pastel, pencil and ink, is entitled Salt, Sugar, Sex and obliquely refers to the bodily functions that conspire to regulate our physiological production of these three important elements and hormones. As well as suggesting internal organs, Voigt’s drawings recall flower blooms or nerves connected by stems or branches, while plants themselves are similarly governed by biochemical reactions, involving the absorption of external stimulants and nutrients and the production of enzymes needed for cellular growth or change.
Not only do Voigt’s works seem to function at a metabolic, almost molecular level, they also suggest wider, symbolic associations – the reds and blush pinks standing in for heat and energy, as well as having emotional resonance with passion. Just as nature, science and culture collide in Voigt’s frequent use of literary or scientific quotation alongside her drawn schema, so too do the oft-separated activities of philosophy and art, or thinking and doing. Her interweaving of decisions and pathways is a result of conflicting factors, among them her own gestures or marks in time and space, as can be seen in another major work, Yes or No (Ja Oder Nein), in which the vein-like interconnecting red lines signify an experience or recording of the present moment – each is accordingly tagged with the word ‘Now’.
Voigt is also unveiling her first ever collaboration with a fashion designer, the Danish-born Mads Dinesen, who often imbues his innovative collections with artistic, spiritual and even political undertones. While Dinesen has designed the pieces and sourced fabrics onto which Voigt has applied splashes of paint, the resulting kimonos, entitled Things to Wear I-V (an almost literal translation of the Japanese word) are very much co-creations towards truly multifunctional, transformative, aesthetic objects or even as they see them, towards “wearable pictures”.
Voigt renders even the most unfathomable subjects – including, in this exhibition, the biological mechanics and spatial movements of the body, quantum physics and the passing of time – into elegant visual structures, albeit in the knowledge that each attempt is ultimately futile. “Futility is not a ‘weakness’ or an ‘absurdity’: it is a strong sign: the more futile, the more it signifies and the more it asserts itself as strength.” Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, 1977.