Gill Hedleyback

Curator & Contemporary Art Consultant

Sonke Faltien

Gill Hedley speaking at Site Gallery, Sheffield, in 2006

Sonke Faltien - MAstar

Awarded by AXISweb in . Selected by Gill Hedley. 


Sonke Faltien’s MA show at Chelsea had the effect of a mini retrospective. Four works only, apparently very varied in content and medium, yet they held tightly together, revealing a real change in direction. A group of photographs from his on-going Equalizer series was displayed in a contained section on a right angled wall. The photographs, all digitally printed c-prints, are elegantly presented, window mounted. Full-length portraits yet small and domestic, they are about the same size as their 18th century painted equivalents by Arthur Devis and others just over the road at Tate Britain. The series title derives from the objects (an adapter, a cat, a teapot) that each subject chose to place on their head, in an attempt to make themself the same height as the artist. This is a very graphic equalizer.

In previous photographic work, landscape dominated whether American scenes in Archetypes, German nuclear power stations in Reisen and, more recently, Unfinished Business which looked at the impact of a new ring road in Giza. Equalizer marked a return to photography after a break. Time spent at Chelsea has moved Faltien towards a rather gleeful group of works, all linked by a meditation on work.

Why Does It Have To Be This Way is a long paper scroll that unfurls on the floor; its visible surface is a pencil drawing of triangles that repeat, each touching, so that a large pattern of facets emerges until it reaches the right scale. This is large scale, formal doodling using the language of mathematics and crystal formation with a casual air. It does not seek to fill the long scroll and, seemingly, answers the question in its own title: because it feels right. The repetitive nature is echoed in the work Quotidian Striving which grew during the days of the show. A bundle of wood is tied to a length of gaffa tape, suspended from the ceiling. Weight, heat and, most importantly, time, combine to stretch the tape and lead to the collapse of the wooden bundle; each day, another version is made and the sculpture grows, largely out of control.

The final work is Blaumachen, a maquette of a proposed Monument to Bunking Off. Blaumachen is the German word for bunking off but has a more open and generous meaning than the blunt English bunk, skive or wag. The word literally means “to make blue”, from the medieval dyeing trade, but carries a notion of open skies and daydreaming. The sculpture was carefully sited slightly away from its predecessors, on its way out of the building and beyond. It is a mature and witty reflection on the artist’s move to add looser, informal, personal works to his repertoire. It marks, for the artist, the importance of stepping back from the mix of work and leisure “to contemplate and reconsider one’s situation”. Just as the dyers had, on certain days, simply to wait until the blue dye developed, so the artist must allow time and instinct to suggest new directions. We all need a monument to that.