Wolfgang Laib (b. 1950, Germany) uses raw, natural materials such as pollen, milk, rice and beeswax to explore, in his words, ‘a passage to another world’. Seeing his work not as a form of ‘creation’ but as a process of ‘participation’ with his chosen materials, Laib’s repeated piles of rice or pollen, or simple geometric shapes rendered in stone or wax, act as conduits to other levels of awareness beyond appearances. Though presented without narrative, Laib’s installations evoke the realm of myth, offering a space to contemplate the mysteries of matter.
In this new installation, Without Space – Without Time – Without Body, Laib harnesses the material and spiritual energies of rice, both a source and a symbol of sustenance, arranging it into a grid of small mounds. Laib refers to these mounds as ‘mountains’, those emphatic points of connection between the earth and the sky. Playing with our sense of scale, Laib punctuates the grid – this mountainous landscape – with roughly hewn stone forms that evoke houses, grain stores, medieval reliquaries or ancient Islamic tombs. The potential for life stored within the grain of rice – a seed – is set alongside the storage places of the dead, rendered in ash-covered granite. Evoking cycles of nourishment and mortality, Laib invites us to meditate on interweaving layers of time: the unfolding present, the human lifetime, and the time of nature and the cosmos.
Find out more about the artist by listening to our audio guide at bit.ly/ysi-thw5
Image courtesy the artist and The Hepworth Wakefield. Photo: Nick Singleton