Germany | Sculpture | Anke Eilergerhard

In Wonderland

Like a reversion of Lewis Carroll, the work of this artist turns the aesthetic naïve art of culinary feminism into a surreal conceptual game. Anke examines feminine imagery in order to transform it into a tale that goes a bit further than fairytales. Her proposal challenges romantic classicism in order to play with the visuality that mixes porcelain and silicone in a discourse on deformities and textures.

Getting lost in Anke’s visual fantasies means succumbing to critical imagination as well as symbolism characteristic of art and its messages. Like an infinite and palpable meringue, this artist’s sculptures enlarge the human eye’s natural perception in order to expand the non-critical view of the female universe. And even through the current anti-romantic style seems to have emerged in the last few years, the first pieces in this quest emerged in the ‘90s.

They look like cakes, but they aren’t. They seem like sweet constructions, but they are far from it. Undoubtedly, the work by this German artist represents a portrayal that differs from the subtleties of femininity. Her sculptures aim to discuss the classic stereotype of the warm and sweet woman, in order to break it apart and narrate a new story through art.

Through this, Anke’s career has transformed into a small dogma, into a social contribution towards the marketing of femininity, towards contemplating fragility from a more powerful place and developing new ways to portray the materials. She is working with silicone since 2004, and her artworks can take several months to be ready, because as she said: “Sculpture doesn´t really work without planning, at least not in my case. With the materials I use there is not room for trial and mistakes”. Her sculptures are large-scale and have a dismantled balance but they also possess a powerful axis of symmetry. They form towers that resemble bishops in a game of power.

When they are seen from a distance, the towers seem hard, strange and pointed. However, upon getting closer they take on a certain spongy texture that entices all viewers. Cakes, cakes and more cakes, extravagantly and lavishly decorated take on an impressive role. At the same time, installations made with silverware are combined with children’s tales in their narration. A mix between Disney’s “The Beauty and the Beast” and “Alice in Wonderland” appears to dazzle us with its alternation, characters and story which has little to do with either of the two storylines.

The porcelain of the teacups is combined with traditional and luxurious birthday cake decorations, but instead the constructions rise in a wavy and solid shape. If you only see piled up teacups, you must focus and walk around the piece to understand it entirely. Faces and bodies are melded between the handles, bottoms and plates of each object. As if the cups were stripped down, the piece’s concept pierces through the material in order to bring it out into a body that could break if it fell, but that shows an unbreakable certainty in its direct reception. Some of her sculptures are named after women, which makes it almost impossible to not think of ladies from the 1900s drinking tea, laughing aloud, enveloped in the opulent dresses from that time.

From the bodies to the kitchen

The work that Anke makes has been shown in different galleries around the world. The creativity of this artist, who born in Wuppertal and now is living in Berlin, is infinite. This is not only based on the imagination looming in her work, but also based on the conceptualization and symbolism within it. Anke wants to communicate a message beyond what is aesthetical and she does this through a perfect balance. She came up with the term kitchenplastics herself to refer to the creation of her silicone cakes. The term is like establishing a terminological ambivalence that dismantles simple feelings to reconnect them in a new message.

The aesthetic development that women have undergone throughout history, allowed us to analyze their image and their attire so much that it revolutionized the way we think about their bodies. During some times, extreme thinness was highly regarded, in other times it was voluptuous hips. However, fashion has existed in all eras, as well as the effort to reach the levels of beauty that were esteemed during each time. Kitchenplastics expresses, almost subliminally, the idea of plasticity in women, the inevitable association between the body and silicone, between what’s natural and what’s artificial and the most recurring and stereotyped environment: the kitchen. From the terminology to the art, Anke transforms words into scripts and creates a declaration of new principles that are invited to have tea. This artist’s contemporary woman laughs at history and is reborn in satire in order to continue her path.

Anke’s work can be confusing if we skim over it without thoroughly studying the depth of its analysis, but it generates an innovative proposal that pleases viewers through a subtle and playful gaze. Even so, it is responsible for moving the uniform structures from the religious pompousness of the Baroque era. Her creations simulate plasticity through the silicone and, between drips of sugar-laden sweetness, beg the viewer to touch and taste the work as if it were a real cake. And just like she plays with this sweet acidity, she also sculpts risqué figures in colors that aren’t normally found in traditional silverware like red or black, which have a different effect.

Like two distant poles, the materials that this artist uses involve opposing materials. However, both silicone and porcelain are discovered by talking about a new stance on femininity, and about rehashing the concept of beauty in order to go out and find a new aesthetic challenge. Anke’s work travels along different paths but they all lead to the same essence. The irregular culinary composition of her sculptures invites us to reinterpret how we see delicacy, and the role of the social stereotype regarding the kitchen. Cakes and designs that she makes seem excessive and emulate wedding cakes like depictions of those moments particularly attributed to women. How we define what is feminine and what is masculine shifts from culture to culture and over time, but the information accumulated in our memories seems set in stone. It is there where these works make sense and move away from their traditional concept.

Plastic and aesthetics, each piece by Anke Eilergerhard describes a maze-like journey, and going from one piece to another is to travel a winding path of new dimensions and feelings. This German artist’s work is, no doubt, a new approach to materiality, touch, feeling, and the historical narrative that is recurrent in matters that are attributed to women. It is a new approach to the likes and desires of women as well as their aspirations and potential. It is an invitation to deconstruct the o conservative beliefs and open up the path towards freedom regarding stereotypes.

Leticia Abramec
Leticia Abramec

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