From Surface to materiality to Space

By Stig L. Andersson Ass. Prof. Architect 1998.

The original printet article can be seen here

Louise Sass works with the surface and the tactile. The focus is on the interplay between surface and space, an interplay she is constantly, intensely exploring.

In Japan she has studied how the paper-makers, by articulating and refining paper, can make it luminous, translucent, warm, sensitve, pliable and soundless. The paper is worked to a level where it naturally fulfils the functional and aesthetic need for which it was intended. The quality of the paper depends on its preliminary processing and the material of which it is made – for example mulberry wood, flax or cotton.

In a similar way, Louise Sass looks for the qualitative and sensory surface properties of the materials by painting and working with composition, rhythm, motion and mood. The process of ’painting’ should be understood here as the actions, such as soaking, tearing, pasting, drawing, stamping, printing, colouring etc., which create the surfaces.

Louise Sass reduces her material – textile, paper or colour – to a material surface which she forms into new identities in relation to the place, the space, of which it is to be a part. This means that a kind of organic connection arises between the worked surfaces and space as when a wallpaper is rolled up the walls of the room and creates new life.

She takes her motifs from her close surroundings, from the muddy earth, from the sand in the Japanese garden, from rows of windows or curtain wall facades. She simplifies these structures and makes them visible as patterns in her work through serial repetitions. The motifs are not crucial as references. They are only significant inasmuch as they initiate a process that transforms the material – matter into new matter. You are actively involved in this metabolic process that she catalyses. This is what we experience when the grain of the wood is metamorphosed into textile and space in our homes in the wardrobe Nomadeskab (Nomad wardrobe) from 1994 or when the dry earth in Namibia from 1995 becomes colours and patterns of crinkled surfaces or animal skin, as surroundings for our bodies. 

The experience of Louise Sass’ works is based on concepts like colour surface and pattern. The compositional order with which traditional textile printing works is broken down and the material appears as one thing. But when you look closer, as in the works with ink stripes on paper from 1997-98, cracks appear, interstices and transitions. Constantly the surface changes character and is suddenly many directions, infinitely many orientations. The small openings that arise in the shifts between the indivdually applied layers of paint, glue or paper, reveal the power of the material to move us and affect our perception of the surroundings.

The works Lineær Stak (Linear Stack) 1995 and Undervejs (En route) from 1995-97 make use of a very simple structure of lines. The screen-print frame is used as a stamp, printed and repeated ad infinitum. In the succesive printing process the stamp is moved and turned all ways, so that the finished result emerges as one matted picture; a picture filled with space in which you can get lost – a kind of maze that leads us now in and now out of the picture.

Whether Louise Sass works with textiles or paper, she exploits the inherent potential of the material and brings it out thanks to the various techniques she uses. A recurrent feature of her work is linear structures. Long lines and stripes that extend over the surfaces like the horizon, like the grain in wood, water in rivers, electric currents in a circuit, or winds. It all flows lightly and elegantly, and the picture is never completed as a unified whole. It gives the impression that she paints back and forth, up and down, crossing and recrossing with striped paint straight from the paint pot.

Louise Sass’ works capture the sensuous aspect of the surface before the intellectual interpretation. The surface lies there passively, waiting to be activated by a user who is then caught in the manyfaceted world of the picture. The user becomes an active part of the metabolism of the material and the space.

In building up a surface Louise Sass goes through a process where one layer is laid over another, then a third and so on, thus releasing the meaning of the single layer to take on another meaning that depends on the interplay with the others. A symbiosis arises of colour, motif and material, sensed differently according to wheter it is paper or textile. In the textile print the colour is etched into the textile and while the individual layers can be seen, they cannot be felt. It is different with paper. The wet paint soaks the paper, which bulges and twists during drying so that the two-dimensional motif appears in relief as can be clearly felt and seen in the paper works from the exhibition at the Gentofte Art Library in 1998.

Louise Sass is in the midst of a development where stripes, lines and directions are subject to experiments and processes that expose the myriad possibilities of the surface and the space.